The Theory of Everything, directed by James Marsh, is a biopic about one of the world’s most renowned astrophysicists: Stephen Hawking. The story itself is incredibly inspiring. Hawking was diagnosed with motor neuron disease, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, at age 21. Doctors estimated he had a maximum of two years to live, but he surprised everyone, and is still alive today. He went on to become one of the greatest minds in science.
The film is adapted from Hawking’s first wife Jane’s memoir, Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, which details the couple’s life together. Stephen, played by Eddie Redmayne, and Jane, played by Felicity Jones, first meet at a party, and the connection is instant. They are almost complete opposites, but their attraction for one another outweighs any difference in opinions they may have. When Stephen is diagnosed with motor neuron disease, Jane promises to help and support him. They get married soon after, and have three children together. The movie shows the couple’s everyday life and the challenges that came with Stephen’s disease. It showcases the ups and downs of their life, until their eventual divorce.
The acting is absolutely superb. The chemistry between the two characters is clear from the moment they meet. Redmayne won the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role, and rightfully so. He fully committed to the role, accurately portraying Hawking’s gradual physical deterioration. Both lead actors did an incredible job conveying the intense emotions that their characters experienced. The cute, lighthearted moments in the movie were just as impactful as the heavier scenes.
The real Stephen Hawking highly approved of the film. He gave the director his blessing to make the movie, and in a Facebook post, he said that he was “honored and humbled by the film that was made.” He visited the set during filming and allowed his actual computerized voice to be used. He also thought that Redmayne portrayed him quite well. In another Facebook post, he even said, “At times, I thought he was me.”
What made this movie resonate with audiences was the fact that it focused more on Hawking’s personal life rather than his scientific theories. His contributions to the scientific community are certainly impressive, and the story of him overcoming his physical handicaps and thriving mentally further adds to it. Everyone can relate to surmounting a personal obstacle to some degree. This film is about overcoming seemingly impossible challenges, but in a very fresh and tangible way.
If you are more interested in Stephen Hawking’s personal life, be sure to read Jane Hawking’s memoir, as well as his own, called My Brief History.