The Theory of Everything is one of several biopics to dominate the Academy Awards this past year. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards but took home only one, with Eddie Redmayne winning in the Best Actor category while facing stiff competition from the likes of Michael Keaton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Bradley Cooper, and Steve Carell. Felicity Jones was nominated for Best Actress but ultimately lost out to Julianne Moore for her role in Still Alice. But awards maketh not a film, and The Theory of Everything is still well worth a watch.
The film begins with the meeting of the now renowned physicist Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and his soon to be wife, Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones), while the two are students at Cambridge University. Stephen manages to make time for both Jane and his work, which at that point in time was trying to find a specific idea for his upcoming thesis. The relationship blossoms between the two young students until one day Stephen is given a sobering diagnosis. As is probably common knowledge at this point, Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with motor neuron disease and given only two years to live. He slowly loses use of his muscles as well as the ability to talk, but manages to outlive his two year deadline by a mile. Despite their love for each other, Stephen's condition begins to put an obvious strain on his and Jane's relationship.
Within the first several moments of The Theory of Everything, I immediately began to compare and contrast it with another film of a similar subject matter, Ron Howard's A Beautiful Mind. Both films deal with a brilliant student trying to thrive despite having a crippling disorder, one physical and one mental. Like A Beautiful Mind, this film is bolstered primarily by the performances of the two leads. Both Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones are phenomenal in their respective roles and are the heart of the film, bringing life to these people in a subtle way. Not only does Redmayne have Hawking's tics and mannerisms down, but he also rounds out the character in a way that forces us to see a real man underneath the robotic voice and wheelchair.
The Theory of Everything encourages the audience to examine ourselves and consider if there is such a thing as unconditional love. Not only is it a biopic of Stephen Hawking and Jane Wilde, but also a tale that forces us to consider how we handle adversity and the potential strains that a disability can have on a relationship.
Unlike A Beautiful Mind, this film is not as well paced as there are occasional lulls that feel unnecessary to the central theme. But the film succeeds in striking a chord when it needs to the most, and the combination of two excellent performances and the apt direction of James Marsh make The Theory of Everything a pleasure to watch.