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The Theory of Everything Movie Review


STORY: Stephen Hawking has a brilliant career and loving marriage ahead. But diagnosed with motor neuron disease, he's given two years to live - can Hawking solve the equation of life?

Rating: 4/5

REVIEW: In 1963, Stephen Hawking was very far from the world-revered figure he is today. Instead, this biopic depicts Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) as a partying, rowing Cambridge student, interested in the "physics of lust", bantering with buddy Brian (Lloyd). Hawking is brilliant but yawningly lazy, giving Professor Sciama (Thewlis) answers scrawled on train schedules, meeting Jane (Felicity Jones) at a party, the pretty languages student bowled over by the awkward, charming young man. Love's blossoming when Hawking is told he has motor neuron disease, his muscles will degenerate - and he has just two years to live. Jane insists on marrying Stephen - but their journey isn't simple.
Remarkably, this biopic is, although it houses three narratives - the life of a gifted, afflicted being, a love story through time, a philosophical debate over God's existence versus scientific evidence. Excellent acting brings these together. Playing Hawking - humourous, luminous, increasingly dark as his body gives way despite his mind and heart growing - Eddie Redmayne delivers a stupendous performance. There are scenes when Redmayne can only express thorough his eyes (Hawking couldn't speak after surgery) and the anger and anguish of his glances are extraordinary, just like his naughty grins at nurse Elaine (Peak), who efficiently manages his moods and his reading of Penthouse. Alongside, Felicity Jones presents a powerful Jane, in love, growing fatigued, attracted to choirmaster Jonathan (Cox), racked by tension.

The music and cinematography, capturing Cambridge's lush prettiness, add glow, this portrait considerably brighter than a biopic like A Beautiful Mind, also exploring genius and agony. For those expecting a science lesson though, this film provides only fleeting moments of diet-physics. Instead, the focus is on Hawking's emotional discoveries, his "simple, elegant equation to explain everything" - love, hope and human endeavour, balancing the sadness of 'If only' with the courage of 'What if...?'

This movie reportedly made Stephen Hawking cry. Watch it. You'll see why.
Spoiler alert! Please do not read the following plot summary if you have not seen the film, especially since the film is a horror-thriller.

In 1963, Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) is a physics PhD student at Cambridge, enjoying parties, rowing and banter with his friend Bryan (Harry Lloyd). Professor Sciama (David Thewlis) gives them a difficult assignment but Stephen brings back the right answers scrawled on the back of a train schedule.

Stephen meets languages student Jane (Felicity Jones) at a party. They are attracted to each other and attend a May Ball where Stephen gets over his shyness and dances with Jane. But one morning, Stephen suffers a bad fall in his college quad. Doctors examine him and he is told he has motor neuron disease, his muscles will degenerate and he has only two years to live.

An anguished Stephen turns both Bryan and Jane away but the latter pursues him. She insists he play croquet with her which is when she sees how physically challenged he has become. Stephen is shattered but Jane insists on marrying him, despite his father trying to dissuade her, saying he fears it will be a devastating loss.

The couple are happily married though and have two children soon. But while he passes his PhD viva and works as a lecturer, his research gaining admirers, Stephen's physical condition is rapidly deteriorating. He cannot speak fluently or walk, he must be fed and he often chokes. Looking after him is exhausting Jane but Stephen is resistant to getting external help.

Jane's mother sees how stressed she is and suggests she join a church choir where Jane meets choirmaster Jonathan (Charlie Cox) who has lost his wife and is lonely. Jonathan becomes a family friend, helping with Stephen and the kids, but this closeness isn't approved of by Stephen's family. When the Hawkings have their third baby, Stephen's mother outrageously asks Jane if the child is Jonathan's. Jane and Jonathan decide to step apart because they do have feelings for each other. But Stephen convinces Jonathan to return.

Stephen decides to go with friends to a concert in France. But as the music plays, he coughs blood and faints, suffering from pneumonia and put on life support. To save him, doctors must operate on his throat, ending his power of speech. Jane, who was on a camping trip with Jonathan, where the couple come closer, arrives in France and agrees to the surgery as Stephen's life is vital to her. Stephen must then learn to communicate through a spelling board and the couple's life gets harder.

But then, a trained nurse Elaine (Maxine Peake) arrives, and Stephen is very happy to communicate with ease. Even better, a computerised application soon helps him give voice to his thoughts and he forms a fun relationship with Elaine. Meanwhile, his research is earning him global accolades but the distance between Stephen and Jane is growing. Finally, Stephen tells Jane Elaine will be accompanying him on a lecture tour to America. Jane realises their marriage is over but the couple remain close friends, Stephen even acknowledging the presence of God to the devout Jane who is delighted that he is not an inflexible atheist any longer.

In America, Stephen addresses eager students. Someone asks him his philosophy of life and as he movingly imagines being physically able, he says life is about hope, courage and human endeavour, to which there is no boundary.

Stephen Hawking is invited by the Queen to be honoured and he invites Jane - now married to Jonathan - and their children to accompany him. The couple sit in a garden and smile when Stephen indicates the children and says, "Look at what we made."
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