Dir: James Marsh (2014)
Perhaps thanks to the awesome rebirth of Cosmos, the popularity of new young scientists hitting TED all over the world, the new NASA program, global excitement and bewilderment at the large hadron collider or perhaps the BBC injecting millions of pounds into Professor Brian Cox and his poster boy image of the philosophical particle wizard that he is; In the last few years, science has once again become sexy. The British attack on the Oscars this year sees The Imitation Game and documentary genius James Marsh‘s The Theory of Everything firmly leading the pack. Both films about genius and affliction, this picture about the great Stephen Hawking, has a much more popular figure to mythologise, to lift, and a far greater emotional punch up its sleeve.
Golden Globe winner and Oscar nominee Eddie Redmayne brilliantly portrays the young Hawking, stuck down with motor neurone disease at university in his 20’s. Though Marsh’s colourful and confident film, much like Morten Tyldum’s Turing picture, ignores much of the hard-hitting and deeply personal stories, Anthony McCarten’s script taken from Jane Hawking’s memoir, Travelling to Infinity, concerns itself rather broadly with a man struggling inside with his genius and an incredibly strong and intelligent woman struggling to care for her young husband and family. A wonderful Felicity Jones takes up the task of playing Jane; Succeeding absolutely with a knockout showcase of poise and fragility hiding a shameful frustration.
Where-by Tyldum sets The Imitation Game’s sights firmly on Turing (and Benedict Cumberbatch‘s performance) and never wavers, Marsh seems to back slowly away from Hawking over the course of the film; He focuses on Jane’s attraction to a widowed choir teacher (Charlie Cox) which begins to seep in to the family dynamic and as Hawking becomes a mute, unreachable man, The Theory of Everything weirdly seems to leave its subject out in the cold; While Marsh goes for some visual cues which border on emotional force feed feeling, colouring his scenes (blue for wonder, red for love, grey for god) etc, the film nearly fizzles out.
We’re left to watch Redmanye’s incredible performance from some distance, like we are pondering the going ons inside one of his theoretical black holes. Perhaps this is Marsh’s purpose? Perhaps not? Never the less it’s a beautiful turn by the young actor, often heartbreaking and always utterly convincing; But the real star at the end of the piece is Oscar nominee, Jones who handles all that is thrown at her as Hawking fades into the distance later on. Maybe this is as close to the legend as you’re likely to get in a mainstream Hollywood film and that’s no bad thing; Especially for those people uninitiated with his absolutely beautiful mind. The Theory of Everything doesn’t do everything it should do, but, theoretically, it’s as tender and affecting as a film about Hawking has come.