Like so many biopics before it this one hits all the key points in the cosmologist’s complicated life. digging deep into his personal and professional life and most importantly: his illness.
Speaking for myself I thought I knew how inspirational Stephen Hawking’s life is but this movie showed how little I knew, Hawking’s life is much more than just inspiring – the way he’s battled motor neuron disease, when the doctors told him he had only 2 years to live he defied the odds not only did he survive, he thrived. And in playing Hawking, Eddie Redmayne more than rises to the challenge of portraying the Professor’s gradual physical deterioration and demonstrating the mental acuity that has remained despite his physical condition. It’s a highly impressive performance, we congratulate Redmayne on winning an Oscar for Best Actor in his performance because he so rightly deserves it.
And then there is the admirable Jane Wilde Hawking portrayed by Felicity Jones. The love and support we see from Jane Hawking is what makes her so admirable. A complete saint. It cannot have been easy raising 3 children and caring for her husband while at the same time having the desire to follow her own intellectual dreams. Early scenes between these two show an instant connection. Stephen and Jane steal glances at each other in the middle of a crowded room at a party at Cambridge in 1963. You can just tell how these two are going to be polar opposites of each other; he’s a cosmologist and she’s studying medieval Spanish poetry, he’s a firm atheist and she’s a faithful follower of the Church of England, he’s shy and clumsy and she’s vibrant and graceful. But soon their curiosity forces the both of them together. Opposites do bring out the best in one another. Their initial days together includes a romantic scene involving, for those familiar with the book, the little-known joke about the Tide laundry detergent.
At first everything seems hopeful for these two young and brilliant minds. Until the first time Hawking experiences a series of clumsy inexplicable movements soon followed by a serious fall on the Cambridge courtyard. A visit to the doctor brings the knowledge of his diagnosis. At age 21 Hawking learns about his illness; that he has a motor neuron disease, or ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The doctor also gives him just two years to live. Immediately Hawking tries to break it up with Jane but she won’t have it; she forces her way into his life and promises that she is ready for whatever is going to come their way. As she says,
“I want us to be together for as long as we’ve got and if that’s not very long well then that’s just how it is, it’ll have to do”
They quickly marry, and eventually have three children. But as Stephen’s body weakens and the family has to make continuous changes adjusting to his physical status that weakens daily – including the famous computerized voice he creates when he no longer can speak, which is the source of some of the film’s precious few laughs – his mind stays sharp. He continues his pursuit of the one simple, elegant equation that will explain everything in the universe; The Theory of Everything as he likes to call it. Hawking’s mind grows even sharper and expands more and more as his physical abilities become less.
Eventually, “The Theory of Everything” reaches a point where we see that Jane and Stephen’s marriage had changed beyond repair, despite Jane’s efforts. Once that became clear to them they reach to a mutual understanding and separate on perfectly good terms; Jane sought solace with Jonathan Hellyer Jones, the widowed choir director who served as Hawking’s caretaker and Hawking with his quirky therapist Elaine. Despite their separation they remain good friends. Both of them love their children and soon their grandchildren.
This biopic is made extra special thanks to its beautiful and breathtaking soundtrack. Anyone who sees this movie, and I would recommend all to see it, I would tell you to listen to “Arrival of the Birds” by The Cinematic Orchestra. Close your eyes and just listen to it. It is a beautiful composition.
During the final scene of the movie we are presented with many inspirational quotations from Stephen Hawking as he addresses his audience, my favourite being the one Hawking answers to the question of his religious beliefs and his philosophy of life:
“..there should be no boundary to human endeavour, we are all different however bad life may seem there is always something that you can do and succeed at. While there is life, there is hope”