At the Movies 2015: The Theory of Everything

The Theory of EverythingThe Theory of Everything
UK 2015
Written by Anthony McCarten, based on the book by Jane Hawking
Directed by James Marsh
Watched on 24.01.2015

After having a hard time with them when they became increasingly popular during the last decade, I think that I’m finally starting to ease up on biopics. Don’t get me wrong; this doesn’t mean that I’m not aware of their drawbacks. A 120-minute-movie will never be able to convey the same amount of information as a biography. Also, with a biopic you have to be aware that you see a dramatized version of events, screened through the filter of the script writer, the director, the actors etc. However, one thing that very well works in their favor, is the emotional effectiveness. It simply is much more touching – and gripping – to watch a well done movie than to read a non-fiction book. Thus, I’m willing to grant them a little leeway when it comes to the facts, because if I’m interested in the truth behind it, I can always pick up the book (or consult Wikipedia).

Overall, “The Theory of Everything” worked quite well for me. It was touching without ever getting sappy, and the movie managed to really get me invested emotionally. One thing that I especially liked was the emphasis on Jane Hawking (not really surprising, given that it’s based on her biography – something which I wasn’t aware beforehand). We enter Stephens life the day that she enters his, and also leave it if not the last time they saw each other than at least at a turning point for both their lives. I really loved that all through Stephens suffering, Jane’s own struggle – and bravery – wasn’t forgotten. Nevertheless, “The Theory of Everything” of course first and foremost is a movie about Stephen Hawking and his struggle with ALS, an illness that traps this remarkable mind in an increasingly useless body. I really liked that “The Theory of Everything” doesn’t gloss over Stephens frustration and despair. Anyway, I found his deterioration quite heartbreaking to watch.

The cast is really good, especially Eddie Redmayne, who gives an impressive performance as Stephen Hawking (I still would have preferred for Michael Keaton to walk away with the Oscar honors, though). Felicity Jones has the less flashy role, and I think I was a little bit more impressed by her work in “Like Crazy”, but nevertheless, she also gave a great, natural performance. James Marsh enhances the movie with a very stylish direction that offers a couple of beautiful images and shots that you normally wouldn’t expect in a movie like this. However, maybe the biggest reason why this movie worked for me as well as it did is Jóhann Jóhannssons extremely elegant and emotive score. The one thing that didn’t work for me was the way the movie intercut Jane’s possible (and at least intended) adultery with Stephens seizure, which rang extremely untrue to me. That just smelled Hollywood; and seemed to almost infer some kind of judgment from above. And as much as I enjoyed that Jane was a big part of the movie, “The Theory of Everything” could have done a better job conveying the importance of Hawking’s work for modern science. Apart from that, however, I felt that it was wonderful, lovely tribute to this remarkable human being, as well as his courageous wife.


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