The Theory of Everything

Directed by James Marsh
Starring Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Joelle Koissi, Harry Lloyd & Maxine Peake
In UK Cinemas January 1st, 2015

by Joanna Orland

I honestly did not expect to like this film, least of all as much as I did.  I am not a fan of Eddie Redmayne whose singing gave me a panic attack midway through Les Misérables.  Also, I did not want to watch a love story angle on a character as important and intelligent as Stephen Hawking.  But in spite of my hesitant attitude, I was completely engrossed in the story of a marriage between Stephen and Jane Hawking, strongly driven by the excellent performances at the forefront.

This is Eddie Redmayne’s film.  Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking with endearing compassion.  His performance is convincing in its physicality and emotion without ever over-playing the drama.  His best moments are without words as a mere twitch in his cheek can convey a million feelings.  From his days as a young Cambridge student to later in life as a renowned astrophysicist with a crippling motor neuron disease, it’s not an impression, it’s an embodiment.  Dare I say that it’s a career-defining performance for Redmayne?  I can’t believe I am singing the praises of a man whose singing gave me heart palpitations of the bad sort, but here we are.

Less of a surprise, Felicity Jones is excellent as always in the role of Stephen’s wife Jane.  From young naivety to weary age, Jones evolves Jane with naturalistic subtle depths, avoiding the melodrama which this film could have easily fallen prey to.  In fact, this film never falls into weepy or sappy territory in spite of its narrative angle lending easily to it.  Whenever there may be a melodramatic moment, the film tastefully changes tone.  Director Marsh feels removed as a voice which means he has let the story tell itself without forcing any unnecessary style unto it.  The science feels accessible and understandable even when ridiculously complex. This film feels as though it has great substance.

As The Theory of Everything is going to be competing at the Oscars with another British scientist biopic The Imitation Game, there will be inevitable comparisons drawn.  Overall, I feel that The Theory of Everything is a better film.  Performance wise, Benedict Cumberbatch and Eddie Redmayne will be giving each other a run for their money in the best actor category.  Although neither are likely to win it with strong competition from Birdman‘s Michael Keaton, both deserve nominations and the accolades.  As to who gives the year’s better performance, it’s a tough call, but I’m inching towards Redmayne as he has taken such an iconic figure well beyond skillful impersonation to exude such compassion, it is a painful joy to watch.

The Theory of Everything is a gracefully compassionate film.  Eddie Redmayne is now officially on the map and out of my bad books!

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