Entertainment Movies ‘The Theory of Everything’: where chemistry and physics collide

‘The Theory of Everything’: where chemistry and physics collide

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Director: James Marsh
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, David Thewlis, Charlie Cox, Emily Watson, Simon McBurney
Duration: 123 mins
Rating: PG – Mild themes
Release Date: 29 January, 2015

When we think of the great real-life love stories of the 20th Century, Stephen Hawking and his first wife Jane probably aren’t the first couple to spring to mind. That might be about to change with this beautiful and compelling story of the brilliant young scientist and the love of his life.

Given what an icon Hawking is, it’s surprising how little the general public know of his early days. So to most, the sight of Hawking as an able-bodied, gangly youth reeling at a beautiful girl during his university days will come as a surprise.

Less surprising is the fact he was such a prodigious talent in the classroom.

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The Theory of Everything captures Hawking’s blossoming love with his eventual wife Jane and his pursuit to find a single universal equation that will account for all existence. But of course, more than anything, Hawking is famous for being a man of enormous intellect trapped in a body rendered virtually immobile by motor neuron disease.

The film charts the insidious but inexorable growth of the condition and how both he and the steadfastly loyal Jane deal with the effects.

As truth is stranger than fiction, so is it more complex and fascinating. The ways in which the relationship between Stephen and Jane develops is not the stuff of simple and predictable Hollywood fables. Theirs is a story of compromises, concessions and physical frustrations.

Based on Jane Hawking’s autobiography Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, it is a remarkably candid account of events.

Felicity XXXX and Eddie Redmayne's onscreen chemistry is electric and they appear made to work together.
Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne’s on-screen chemistry is electric and they appear made to work together.

While the elements of a real-life hero, a physical disability, and love in the face of adversity make this an obvious candidate for awards – and it is nominated for no less than five Academy Awards – The Theory of Everything is no cliched, formulaic exercise in manipulation.

Director James Marsh, most famously known for the excellent docos Man On Wire and Project Nim, approaches the material with great sensitivity. While a lesser filmmaker would go for the emotional jugular, he is more interested in the subtle minutiae of human relationships. The result is totally disarming and will have the most jaded of viewers grabbing for a hankie.

The Theory of Everything has the added benefit of featuring the best screen chemistry of the year. Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones were born to star in a film together. They are both so effortlessly luminous, exuding warmth and intelligence.

Redmayne’s incredible transformation from the young and healthy Hawking to the wheelchair-bound figure we know today, is one of the great screen performances of recent years.

It’s also a great achievement in make-up, with the physical change being so seamless and realistic. Extraordinarily, the film was shot out of sequence, so Redmayne had to play Hawking at various stages of his life in the same day.

In a film blessed with riches, another key asset is the gorgeous score by Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson. In keeping with the film, it creates a great emotional pull through restraint and avoidance of the obvious.

If you have but one romantic bone in your body, The Theory of Everything will have you swooning and crying in equal measure. Highly recommended.

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The Theory of Everything is released nationally from January 29 through Universal.

This review was published courtesy of thelowdownunder.com.

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