Feb 9, 2015

[Movies] The Theory of Everything (2014)

It's that part of the year when a lot of us try to catch up with all the movies that managed to be rather successful in terms of awards nominations in order to feel more informed once the awards show comes around. And typically there are certain types of movies that tend to tickle the interests of various award-giving bodies, and so you typically end up with a lot of more "serious" movies and their heavier stories.

The Theory of Everything was a movie that I wasn't expecting too much from during its development period but was surprised with how received it was by audiences. Then again, finding a way to tell the story of a man as great as Stephen Hawking and yet also not overwhelming viewers with the weight of his scientific achievements helped a lot.

Folks should enter this movie experience not expecting some analysis of his many theories and papers, but instead just look forward to a glimpse at his life as an individual. He's a man who has achieved so much despite the challenges set in his path and the end result is certainly something quite extraordinary.

Synopsis: The Theory of Everything is a 2014 British biographical drama movie directed by James Marsh. The screenplay was written by Anthony McCarten based on Jane Wilde Hawking's memoir, Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen. The movie has received numerous awards nominations and has thus far won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Lead Role.

The movie begins all the way back in 1963 when a young Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) first meets Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones) at a school party. Stephen persistently pursues Jane until they start a sort of relationship, although you can sense some concern over his lack of faith in a divine power given his dedication to physics. And while Stephen is quite gifted in terms of mathematics and physics, he seems to lack focus and does not yet have a clear topic for his thesis.

Eventually a lecture of black holes provides inspiration for what he wants to look into, thus he decides to focus his paper on time. But it is also during this period that his muscles begin to give way as he is eventually diagnosed with a motor neuron disease and is expected to only have 2 more years to live. Stephen becomes a recluse and shuts himself away from everyone else given this tragic news, but Jane still pushes forward and tells him that she loves him and is willing to stand by him despite the challenges he now faces. In time they marry, and thus their life together truly begins.

It's quite plain that a lot of folks will focus on Redmayne's performance has Hawking as he managed to capture the slow decline of his body as his motor neuron disease progressed over the years. And while this is quite remarkable and Redmayne does deserve credit for this, this alone is not the whole reason I feel he truly deserves all these awards nominations. The fact that he was able to convey so much emotion and presence despite the challenges of portraying Hawking's condition says a lot about his abilities as an actor and his dedication to paying tribute to Hawking in a most noble way.

Yes, the movie focuses a lot on the personal relationship between Stephen and Jane more than anything else following the almost traditional format of the classic love story. But given the source material, this totally makes sense versus a rushed attempt to explaining the science behind Hawking's achievement. And while I totally would have appreciated a movie like that, it may have been more of a distraction to the core story about the man. And that's really what matters here - to tell the story of a great man as faithfully as possible.

Like most folks, I was rather ignorant about Hawking's personal life and so I have to admit that I was surprised by a number of things. It was certainly impressive that Jane decided to marry him despite his rather grim diagnoses and his rather limited lease on life determined by the doctors at first. And then there's the fact that he had so many children despite everything. This is not to say that he didn't have the right to do so, it's really just more a detail of his life that you don't always hear about. Most news agencies focus on what he has to say about things and his latest stance on some scientific issue or another. We rarely talk about his loved ones and those most dear to him.

From start to finish this is quite the powerful movie with a strong story at its heart. Marsh certainly found a way to translate this book into a visual experience that truly makes the most of what we tend to call movie magic. The story is beautiful in its depiction and moving in its execution. And thus it remains quite the fine film indeed as a whole.

The Theory of Everything may seem somewhat simple on the surface given how it's really just about the life of a man and woman and their efforts to have a life together. But when you get past the surface of things you'll find a most engaging tale that almost feels more like magic instead of science. Thus the film more than deserves 5 cheeky moments of Hawking humor out of a possible 5.


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