Contains minor spoilers about the relationship of Stephen and Jane Hawking
James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything diverges pleasingly from the expectations set by its trailer; it’s much more than an over-sentimentalised, whirlwind romance punctuated by a whistle-stop tour of Stephen Hawking’s scientific achievements.
Though it has its oh-isn’t-it-romantic moments of grainy, sepia-tinted montage, The Theory of Everything’s focus is wider than the relationship of Stephen (Eddie Redmayne) and Jane (Felicity Jones). An expansive narrative charts Hawking’s academic development as well as the progression of his Motor Neurone Disease, with supporting roles such as his fellow student Brian (an impressive Henry Lloyd) and friend and carer Jonathan (Charlie Cox) well-crafted. As Hawking’s professor and later friend, David Thewlis, at first distractingly Lupin-like in his academic gown, enters the story periodically, playing a role at every stage of Hawking’s career. This is indicative of Theory’s central pillar; the evolution of Hawking’s scientific thought.
Despite the strength of characterisation among smaller roles, as the leads it is Redmayne and Jones who anchor the film. The Redmayne of Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Les Miserables is banished from his performance as Hawking, undiscoverable beneath the precise yet unpredictable choreography of his limbs and facial muscles. Though it should not be praised at the expense of all others; Jones is note-perfect alongside Redmayne, nailing a far less showy part which offers little opportunity for the virtuoso Redmayne exhibits.
The first act details Stephen and Jane’s developing relationship with a rapid momentum of the kind usually seen in Nicholas Sparks adaptations, and this is later matched with the marriage’s collapse being played just as suddenly, rendering the majority of the film a slower pace by comparison. This elongation and compression enables the script to gloss over the Hawking’s adultery in a coy fashion, determinedly maintaining the film’s uplifting tone while compromising on the reality of its subjects.
Several moments of cinematography are surprisingly creative for the biopic genre, with one sequence shooting Redmayne’s eyes in close-up, abstractly and subtly demonstrating a eureka moment for Hawking. Less original, however, is the appearance of white-on-black what-happened-next facts before the credits roll; a rather unnecessary adherence to biopic convention considering the widespread fame of the film’s central protagonist.