After witnessing the surprisingly moving, romantic and inspiring The Theory of Everything, there is no question that star Eddie Redmayne (Les Miserables) is looking at his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his turn as legendary physicist Stephen Hawking.
And we wouldn’t be surprised if the woman who plays his wife, Jane Hawking (Felicity Jones), also scores one as well. After all, this is the love story of a marriage that would go through a great deal and give the world so much.
The film also chronicles one of the greatest minds of our time and how incredible it is that he is even, frankly, alive.
We meet Hawking as a young man at university and it is clear that he has a gift, unlike any his professors (especially Dennis Sciama, played astoundingly by David Thewlis of Harry Potter fame) have ever seen. But just as his promising academic career is heading into places that are downright historic, he starts having physical problems that threaten his ability to walk, talk and even breathe.
He learns he has ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and already his ability to function with his hands, legs, feet and speech are slowly but surely crippling. Hawking is also given two years to live.
Who challenges him to overcome this death sentence? The love of his life and that’s why The Theory of Everything is equal parts historical lesson in the enormity that is the mind of Stephen Hawking and a tribute to a marriage that inspired that greatness and truly was, and is, a gift to the world.
Director James Marsh works brilliantly from the Anthony McCarten screenplay (which itself was based on Jane Hawking’s book). It is as rich as a story can be and a true triumph in how it chronicles decades of a person’s life that textbooks have been and will be written about. And this is a life that will be told in terms of volumes and not just pages or chapters.
Redmayne is a revelation. His physical and emotional metamorphosis from brilliant and buoyant youthful genius to completely crippled man of science who will change the world is nothing short of a miracle. Watching him as Hawking is a true gift and it should be celebrated with accolades and golden trophies as it could not have been an easy task.
Hawking is one of the most recognizable humans in recent history. How an actor captures someone who has permeated our consciousness is the most difficult of endeavors. Then again, Redmayne had to look at the man he was playing and feel there was no way he could not dig deeper than he ever thought humanly possible.
And he does, and it is one of the great moments of cinema in this decade.
Our The Theory of Everything review found the film is a moving journey that has an inherent call to action for its viewer. It simultaneously allows you to marvel in what one extraordinary man did with such complex personal trials, but also leaves you heading home from witnessing this movie with an undeniable urge to tackle all the hills that life puts in front of us.
Yet, Marsh never tells his story as a preachy lift-you-up, feel-good story that some biopics and inspirational tales possess. This is a straight story, told as it happened and the result is nothing short of triumphant. And that is incredibly fitting, given that the word “triumph” could easily be the one word to choose if you could only use one to describe the life and accomplishments of Hawking himself.