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  • Thoughts on the Film “The Theory of Everything”

    Posted by kevin-schaefer on January 14, 2019 at 7:00 am

    I missed it when I came out, but a few nights ago I finally watched “The Theory of Everything” on Netflix (https://m.imdb.com/title/tt2980516/). This is the 2014 biopic of the British physicist Stephen Hawking, which focuses on the relationship between him and his first wife Jane. It’s also based on Jane Hawking’s memoir “Traveling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen,” and Eddie Redmayne won an Oscar for his portrayal of Hawking in it.

    I quite enjoyed the film. It starts with Stephen and Jane at Cambridge and the early stages of their relationship, and then shifts to Stephen’s diagnosis of ALS. There’s a scene about 20 or so minutes into the film, in which Stephen suddenly loses control and falls face-forward on the ground; which is followed by a dramatic and intentionally hazy sequence in which the doctor diagnoses him.

    I was particularly interested in how the film would precede from here, and how it would portray both the progression of Stephen’s disease and the impact of it on his and Jane’s relationship. Jane, played wonderfully by Felicity Jones, is the first person to push Stephen out of his depression after his initial diagnosis. She remains faithful to him for many years, and in addition to being his caregiver, she also has to take care of their kids and deal with various negativities from their families. For instance, Stephen’s father doesn’t believe she is capable of the challenges ahead when she announces that she will stay with him, no matter how weak he becomes. Then later on in the film when the dashing church choir director Jonathan (Charlie Cox) becomes Stephen’s unofficial caregiver and helps out the rest of the family, Jane’s mother straight up asks her who the father of her third child is. As this drama unfolds, Stephen is relentlessly working on his research, and trying to answer questions about the existence of the universe.

    I commend the filmmakers for showing the progression of Stephen’s disease in pretty vivid detail. While it could’ve been sugar-coded, the way Stephen’s disability is depicted is pretty poignant. The film shows him going from limping around on crutches to using a wheelchair full-time, him gradually losing his upper-body strength, and him losing his voice after a post-pneumonia surgery. And while this depiction is raw, these scenes don’t evoke pity so much as they evoke reality. Though Stephen Hawking was known for using humor in many of his speeches and his writings, he never glossed over the impact of his ALS. I think the film does an admirable job of just showing the complexities of his home-life.

    The one criticism I have for the film, and this is something other reviewers pointed out, is that toward the end it does gloss over the ugly parts of Stephen and Jane’s marriage, and water-down their divorce. I think the film could’ve benefited from presenting a little more nuance here, instead of approaching this subject too sensitively. For the most part it’s a really fascinating look at one of the more iconic inter-abled relationships in history, but I do wish that it hadn’t rushed the ending. Especially because Redmayne and Jones give such stellar performances, I think they would’ve done a great job showing the different sides to Stephen and Jane’s relationship in greater detail.

    Overall though I really enjoyed this film. Has anyone here seen it? I’d be curious to hear your thoughts. As I mentioned earlier it is streaming on Netflix currently.

    kevin-schaefer replied 5 years, 6 months ago 1 Member · 0 Replies
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