Redmayne brilliant as Stephen Hawking
When physicist Stephen Hawking learned as a doctoral student at Cambridge about his muscular degenerative ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) his love Jane Wilde promised Hawking and his family that, “I love you. We will be together for as long as it is. That will have to do.” She anticipated taking care of him, but their struggles for normalcy would lead to burnout. However, we the audience are left to wonder would the quantum equations, black hole theories, and “big bang” proposals have hit prime time without the support of his wife, children, family, colleagues and therapists?
James Marsh (“Man on a Wire”) has directed a potential Oscar -worthy performance by Eddie Redmayne in “The Theory of Everything”. Redmayne studied Hawking’s life for six months, and mastered the physical deterioration and mental brilliance of the renowned theorist.
Looking tall, lanky and bespectacled, Redmayne steadily assumes and adapts, depicting Hawking’s gradual loss of muscular controls. The first seizure shows in his pupils and a stumbling foot. Progressing, the feet go inward, the jaw drupes and his glasses slide forward. Demonstrating both the agony and determination of Hawking, Redmayne utilizes his hands to backwards climb stairs following a dinner in which he realizes that he soon will be unable to hold a spoon. Remember Daniel Day Lewis in “My Left Foot?” Redmayne’s recognition mounts as I write.
Jones evokes a dynamic split – her scenes at home set in the 60s and 70s portray the cleaning, cooking, taking care of the kids, and wearing dress and heels motif with her study of literature confined to a distracting kitchen table. Yet, her selfless taking care of her man has passion that resembles a classic scene in “The Best Year of Our Lives,” when the WWII amputee demonstrates his partial helplessness (such as dressing and undressing) to his fiancee to be.
Caregiver burnout surfaces – along with Jane’s growing frustration about her own life goals placed on hold – leading to her joining the choir led by Jonathan (Charlie Cox), a recent widower who pours compassion into a nearly perfect substitute father and treats Stephen as “one of the boys,” like members of his doctorate class. Though his friendship with Jane is platonic, the increasing celebrity of her traveling disabled hubby fosters temptation.
Recognizing that Stephen’s fame brings state-of-the-art disability intervention, one message must not be overlooked: each of us has unique qualities that deserve enhancement, notwithstanding flaws, be they physical or emotional. As Hawking states: “We are all different – but we share the same human spirit. Perhaps it’s human nature that we adapt – and survive.”
His complex theories which envelope space and time travel receive ample discussion on film. Director Marsh weaves them into ongoing creationism skepticism which focuses attention on the couple legitimately skirmishing over “big picture” topics extending beyond chalk equations and inventing ways for him to communicate.
Absorbing and a pleasure to view, “Theory” has guts, glory and inspiration. To borrow a phrase from another upcoming production, don’t ever give up.
Having opened at film festivals, expect more solid award buzzing flicks at cinemas near you. Their nominations/wins serve as marketing devices to let mainstream viewers know of their merits.