Sunday, September 06, 2015

The Theory of Everything

Based on the memoir Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen by Jane Wilde Hawking, The Theory of Everything is about the life of physics theorist Stephen Hawking and his relationship with first wife Jane Wilde who would later cope with Hawkings’ diagnosis of motor neurone disease. Directed by James Marsh and screenplay by Anthony McCarten, the film is an exploration of Hawking’s early life with Wilde from their years as college students to the events that lead to their separation as Eddie Redmayne plays Hawking and Felicity Jones plays Wilde. Also starring Charlie Cox, Emily Watson, Simon McBurney, Maxine Peake, and David Thewlis. The Theory of Everything is an extraordinarily rich film from James Marsh.

Set from the early 1960s to the early 1990s, the film plays into the life of physics theorist Stephen Hawking from the day he meets his first wife Jane Wilde and to the year he would meet the Queen of England where he would be offered a knighthood. With Hawking being famous for proving about everything that goes on in the universe, he would suffer motor neurone disease early in his life as Wilde would support him and eventually marry him where they would later have three children. With Hawking’s disease worsening, his fame would grow through his theories on time while Wilde would get the aid of a preacher named Jonathan Jones (Charlie Cox) whom she would fall for. While it is a simple bio-pic, it plays into Hawking’s own belief about science and how he believes that a black hole created the universe while he isn’t sure if God exists. Even as Wilde is someone who believes in God as it is among the reason for her attraction towards Hawking.

Anthony McCarten’s screenplay maybe conventional in terms of its plot scenario but it does maintain a sense of humanity in Hawking who is just a simple student with a vast point of view about the world. While he is an intellect, he is someone that is like any other young college student back in the 1960s as is Jane Wilde where they are part of a world where everyone is asking big questions. Part of what makes the story so interesting is the relationship between Hawking and Wilde where they have different ideas in belief yet Wilde is intrigued by Hawking’s own theories on the universe and time itself. By the time Hawking’s own ailment would occur and Wilde would be there to support him, they would have a good marriage but things do become overwhelming for Wilde until she meets Jones who becomes a friend of their.

While there is an attraction between the two as well as an ambiguity into whether or not they had an affair where Hawking’s mother asks Jane if Jonathan is the father of their third child. It is clear that Jones is a good man and knows when to step back where things become complicated in the 1980s when Hawking would fall for his new nurse Elaine Mason (Maxine Peake) who would eventually become Hawking’s second wife. Yet, the heart of the story is Hawking and Wilde’s relationship and their devotion to one another as it all plays into Hawking’s own theory of everything about the world, the universe, time, and the cosmos.

James Marsh’s direction is quite stylish in terms of some of different film stocks that he uses for the film but also in the way he re-creates certain periods in time to play into Hawking’s life. Shot on location in Cambridge University in Britain, the film does play into that world of college life where it wasn’t wild nor very political as the 1960s would later become while there are elements of fun. Even as there are elements of humor as it relates to some of the theories that Hawking presents where there are those who don’t buy into it but there are those who are amazed by it where it is simplified but show that it is really out there. Much of Marsh’s compositions are simple in terms of close-ups, medium shots, and wide shots yet he would use some different film stock to play up into certain events in Hawking’s life from his wedding to Wilde and the birth of their children as it adds to the sense of happiness Hawking had despite his illness.

The direction would have these elements of visual flairs that play into key moments in Hawking’s life into not just his own discoveries of his own as well as moments that play into his ailments. By the film’s second half where Hawking’s condition would worsen as he would lose the ability to speak, the drama does get heightened but the tone sort of changes as it plays into Hawking’s willingness to live despite the diagnosis that he had two years to live upon getting the disease early in his life. In some ways, it’s a film of triumph of a man who rises above his ailments to share his views of the world with the people and connect with them in ways that go beyond the understanding of the universe. Overall, Marsh creates a very engaging and thoughtful film about the life of Stephen Hawking and life with Jane Wilde.

Cinematographer Benoit Delhomme does brilliant work with the film‘s colorful cinematography with its inspiring usage of filters and coloring schemes to maintain different moods for certain scenes as well as playing with film stocks for the home-movie footage. Editor Jinx Godfrey does excellent work with the editing with its approach to reverse-style cuts, montages, and other stylish cuts to play into Hawking‘s own revelation towards his theories. Production designer John Paul Kelly and set decorator Claire Nia Richards do fantastic work with the look of the dorm rooms he lived in college as well as the home he and Jane lived with their children. Costume designer Steven Noble does superb work with the costumes from the dresses that Jane wears throughout the years to play into different periods in time as well as some of the clothes that Hawking would wear.

Hair/makeup/prosthetics designer Jan Sewell does amazing work with the different hairstyles Jane would sport in the years as well as the look of Hawking in the years he would endure his disease. Sound designer Glenn Freemantle does terrific work with the sound from the way Hawking would hear things in his state as well as scenes set in a few parties as well as the church where Jonathan would serve at. The film’s music by Johan Johansson is remarkable for its evocative and soaring orchestral score that is filled with lush string arrangements and electronic textures to heighten the music while music supervisors Sarah Bridge and Claire Freeman create a soundtrack that features jazz, classical, opera, and soul music from the different periods that Hawking and Wilde encounter.

The casting by Nina Gold is wonderful as the film features some notable small roles from Charlotte Hope and Lucy Chappell as Hawking’s sisters, Frank Lebeouf as the Swiss doctor who would tell Wilde more about Hawking’s condition that would render his speech, Abigail Cruttenden as Hawking’s mother, Guy Oliver-Watts as Wilde’s father, Harry Lloyd as Hawking’s roommate Brian, Enzo Clienti as fellow physics theorist Kip Thorne, Georg Nikoloff as the famed Soviet physicist Isaak Markovich Khalatnikov who is impressed with Hawking’s theory, and Christian McKay as the famed mathematician/theorist Roger Penrose who would give Hawking the idea to search on a theory of time. Emily Watson is terrific as Jane’s mother Beryl who would suggest to Jane to join a church choir while Simon McBurney is superb as Hawking’s father Frank who is aware of his son’s deteriorating condition as he would be the one to suggest a nurse to aid him.

Maxine Peake is excellent as Elaine Mason as the nurse hired to watch over Hawking in the late 80s as she would care for him where she would eventually become Hawking’s second wife. David Thewlis is brilliant as Hawking’s professor Dennis Sciama who would support his theory and become a colleague of his while helping to introduce Hawking’s theory to the world. Charlie Cox is fantastic as Jonathan Jones as a preacher who leads a church choir who befriends Hawking and Wilde where he falls for the latter but doesn’t want to get too close as he also enjoys his time with Hawking despite their differences in beliefs.

Felicity Jones is phenomenal as Jane Wilde Hawking as a young woman who is a literature student that falls for Hawking as she copes with his illness while helping him live as it’s a very radiant and touching performance from Jones. Finally, there’s Eddie Redmayne in a marvelous performance as Stephen Hawking as this young physics student who would create a theory as he later succumbs to motor neurone disease which only makes him more determined to share his theories with the rest of the world as Redmayne maintains a unique physicality in scenes where he’s not speaking to make Hawking a very charming and soulful person.

The Theory of Everything is a sensational film from James Marsh that features amazing performances from Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones. While it is a conventional film that does play into elements of what is expected in bio-pics, it is still a film with some charm as well as a strong love story that concerns the relationship between Stephen Hawking and Jane Wilde Hawking. In the end, The Theory of Everything is a remarkable film from James Marsh.

James Marsh Films: (Wisconsin Death Trip) - (The King (2005 film)) - Man on Wire - Red Riding: 1980 - Project Nim - (Shadow Dancer) - (Untitled Donald Crownhurst Film)

Related: A Brief History of Time

© thevoid99 2015


Big Screen Small Words said...

Great review. I quite liked this one; both Redmayne and Jones were fantastic in their roles. I never saw this as a scientific film - that it's supposed to center on Hawking's accomplishments and his disease - but it's a wonderful film about their relationship.

Dell said...

You've read my review. It was just far too conventional and felt fairly empty to me. Redmayne and Jones were both excellent, though.

thevoid99 said...

@Big Screen Small Words-It maybe a by-the-numbers bio-pic but it does at least offer something of substance plus I was engaged by that relationship which worked for me.

@Wendell-I probably liked it more than you did. While I do think Redmayne was excellent, I don't think he deserved that Oscar. As for Jones, I thought she was the better of the two as she had a less showier role and really showed how great she is.

Chris said...

Redmayne was amazing, for me he was the best thing about it and deserved the oscar win. Even if the film glosses over Hawking's theories, it could be a starting point for those who are curious to look up his achievements elsewhere.

Ruth said...

I think this was a very good film, not a masterpiece but definitely essential viewing. Redmayne was excellent indeed, though I still rooted for Keaton after seeing this, I think his role in Birdman is more unique and he had to create that from scratch. I do think Jones is phenomenal here and you could even say she is as integral to the film as Redmayne is. And Charlie Cox is just adorable, he fits the role so well that it was so surprising how good he is as Daredevil! :D

Brittani Burnham said...

Great review! I don't even care if this film is obvious Oscar Bait. I LOVED it.

thevoid99 said...

@Chris-I do think Redmayne is excellent but.... I don't think he deserved the Oscar. Michael Keaton should've won.

@Ruth-I was more into Jones' performance in the film as I liked it for how restrained it is. I also enjoyed Cox as he was just fun to watch and knew what to do in scenes where he doesn't say anything.

@Brittani-It maybe an Oscar-bait film but it has things that do make it more interesting than the typical Oscar-bait films.

Unknown said...

Great post! This was one of my favorites of last year. The cinematography alone completely won me over on this film, and I completely agree with the Academy awarding Redmayne over was a much more challenging role.

thevoid99 said...

@Courtney-Thanks. Redmayne may have had the more challenging role but Keaton's performance was on another level in terms of the sense of suffering of what actors had to go through.