Look at what we made...
I’m always a little cautious of biopics, especially where they are of living people and even more so when the lives they describe have potential for cinematic mawkishness. However, where Hollywood could have wallowed, this UK production from Working Title and director James Marsh manages to stand just sufficiently back from sentimentality to make this picture affecting but unaffected, and unselfconsciously moving.
Based on a memoir by his first wife Jane, the narrative introduces Stephen Hawking around his acceptance into Cambridge and meeting Jane, and follows their relationship through the highs and lows of academic success, advancing Motor Neurone Disease, the building of a family and their eventual but apparently amicable separation.
I have rarely been in a cinema where the audience have been quite so rapt in attention – you could have heard a pin drop at times. The central, spellbinding performance from Eddie Redmayne is simply astonishing. He manages to convey both Hawking’s periodical despair and his seemingly boundless energy and determination and, above all, shows a sense of fun, humour and love of life. This is a finely balanced portrayal that fully fills out the character.
Felicity Jones gives a great performance too as Jane, and Maxine Peake and Charlie Cox are also excellent in their supporting roles as Elaine and Jonathan, whose presence in the Hawkings’ lives are mixed blessings.
This is modern British Cinema at its best, beautifully shot by Benoît Delhomme and underpinned by a well judged but low key score from Jóhann Jóhannsson, It tells its tale with a well judged balance of emotion, never overstepping the line into melodrama, but instead relying on the power of the material and our need to connect with its people.
With its closing scenes winding up this particular chapter of Stephen Hawking’s life with real flair and a heart-warming flourish, The Theory of Everything is both moving and life-affirming and comes highly recommended.