The Theory of Everything review: A brief history of love

This love story is as complex and deep as any of the physics covered in Stephen Hawking’s books

Film Title: The Theory of Everything

Director: James Marsh

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox, Emily Watson

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 123 min

Fri, Jan 2, 2015, 10:00

   

You know how it is. You wait ages for a quality drama about a brilliant Cambridge mathematician and then two come along at once. Following hot on the heels of The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything recounts the story of Stephen Hawking’s first marriage as if it were a superhero genesis story. He deserves no less. Hawking is first glimpsed as a chipper young chap dashing around campus, doing sums his classmates cannot and chasing after fetching poetry student, Jane.

Their adorably clumsy and youthful romance almost ends when he experiences the first symptoms of a motor neuron disease related to ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. A doctor soon confirms the worst: he’ll be dead within two years.

We know this isn’t the end. Hawking soldiers on as a physicist and a husband, then a father. His deterioration and condition is chronicled in a scholarly, affecting performance from Eddie Redmayne.

It would be easy to dismiss The Theory of Everything as prime awards bait, a prestige product that cynically recalls Kate Winslet’s comical dialogue on Ricky Gervais’s Extras: “You’re guaranteed an Oscar if you play a mental.”

It’s true that the film is glaringly prestigious: its cast is peopled by proven thespians, its Academy Award-winning director has an impeccable track record across various genres (Man on Wire, Project Nim, Shadow Dancer) and its subject has battled against impossible, Oscar-friendly odds, yet is rock-star enough to have featured on The Simpsons and Star Trek.

But while Redmayne will almost certainly make the Oscar shortlist with his technically dazzling turn, this movie belongs to Felicity Jones. In The Theory of Everything Hawking’s condition is rather less important than how it affects his marriage. Jones conveys the changing marital chemistry – care, dependence, resentment, exasperation – in small, delicate motions. This is not a brief history of time; it is a brief history of love. And it is as complex and deceptively deep as any of the physics covered in Hawking’s books.