Review - The Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything (2014), PG-13, 123 minutes - I have been looking forward to this film for a few months, not only because Stephen Hawking is a fascinating figure, but because there is no way to tell Hawking's story without at least touching on Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as ALS, or as it is mentioned in the film, Lou Gehrig's Disease). As some of you may know, my uncle has lived with this debilitating disease for over nine years now. I wasn't sure if I'd have a chance to see it as it arrived at our local art house theater amidst the holiday chaos, but I was fortunate enough to find the time to sneak it in last week, on one of its last days here in town.

To my surprise, the majority of the film centered around the challenges and obstacles that Hawking, his (now ex) wife Jane and their family have had to overcome as a result of ALS over the years. Of course his scientific theories and accolades are touched upon here and there but they are not the primary focus of the film. They are used to help convey the passage of time and, more importantly, to remind us that ALS does not effect one's mind, that the limits are purely physical.

Eddie Redmayne does an amazing job portraying Stephen Hawking. Having personally witnessed a loved one's battle with ALS, I must say, he nailed both the physical degradation aspect of the part as well as the psychological. Hawking is clearly a genius, but long term survivors of ALS all have an indomitable attitude, a force of will that is hard to describe but anyone who has met an ALS patient will know what I mean. Redmayne's physical performance once the story reaches the point in which Hawking can no longer speak is truly remarkable. On the same token, Felicity Jones' portrayal of Jane Hawking is equally impressive. Her unconditional love and selflessness to the point of near breakdown is inspiring. The on-screen chemistry between Redmayne and Jones is what makes this film so powerful. Either of their performances alone would be considered excellent, but together they really are something special. These two are supported by a very good cast that includes familiar faces such as: Harry Lloyd (Brian), David Thewlis (Dennis Sciama), Emily Watson (Beryl Wilde), Simon McBurney (Frank Hawking), and Charlie Cox (Jonathan Hellyer Jones).

I may be a biased considering my connection to ALS, but The Theory of Everything is one of the best films I've seen this year. The portrayal of the disease and its far reaching effects is very accurate (at least from my observations). Maybe I shouldn't be too surprised by this as it was directed by James Marsh, who has made a number of documentaries (including 2008's Oscar winning Man on Wire), adapted it from Jane Hawking's book "Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen". I've got to think that Redmayne will receive an Oscar nomination for his efforts, and I'd love to see Jones snag one as well.

The Theory of Everything is a highly emotional film, especially if your life has been touched by ALS in any way. So be prepared, grab a box of tissues and enjoy an excellently made, inspiring film based on the life of one of the world's foremost physicists.


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