Lowdown: A version of Stephen Hawking’s personal story.
Most of us would argue that we lead pretty interesting lives. Sure, the working week and the average weekend can seem mundane, but you have to admit there is more to it around the edges, when life is created or when life ends. Yet, as interesting as our lives are, they are rarely extraordinary; they rarely justify retelling over others' life stories.
One life story that offers an interesting exception is that of Stephen Hawking’s. His extraordinary academic achievements alone are worth retelling, but when coupled with his personal story? That of a young, promising academic, falling ill with the dreaded Lou Gehrig disease, and defying the odds to not only survive but thrive in a non functioning body? Now that’s an interesting story.
Which happens to be the story of The Theory of Everything. It follows Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) from his early days at Cambridge as a seemingly healthy individual till shortly after publishing his famous book, A Brief History of Time, and being locked to a wheelchair and an old computer’s voice. But it doesn’t focus on science, although that aspect receives token populist level mentioning; the focus is on the personal, particularly the relationship between Hawking and his wife Jane (Felicity Jones).
Yes, as personal stories of struggle and sacrifice go, this is one hell of an interesting one. It exposes Hawking as a wonderful person with a wonderful sense of humour, despite everything. It taught me a lot about the character I've always known as “the guy on the wheelchair with the voice”, like the fact he refused to receive his knighthood from the queen (my man!). It offers excellent performance from Redmayne, whose is really hard to differentiate from the real thing (do note the challenge of living up to the image of a person who is still very much with us). And surely, The Theory of Everything exposes Hawking as a human being.
Where The Theory of Everything falters is in its presentation of the confrontation between the atheist kind of science Hawking is focused on with the strong religious faith of his wife. I felt as if the conflict was force fed on the movie, perhaps as an attempt to attract the ever so “in god we trust” American viewer. Then again, I could be wrong; The Theory of Everything is based on a book written by the real life Jane, and maybe in her mind the religious nonsense can really compete with the evidence based research of Stephen’s. Also worth noting are the distortions of facts in the name of sugar coating the movie: in real life, Jane knew Stephen was sick when their relationship started, whereas in the movie they fall for one another before calamity hits.
Overall: A very interesting story, certain aspects of which are told very well while others aren't. 3 of 5 admiring crabs.