The biopic genre has become flooded with failures that try their best to work their way into the Oscar pool. However, the majority of these pictures are insanely overrated, and are often incredibly safe picks to enter the "Best Picture" category. They all strive to be inspirational, but many of them come across as being "sappy" along the way, making for a contrived cinematic experience that leaves us with the genre conventions that we have all become far too familiar with. However, there are occasionally a select few pictures in the genre that manage to leave us with something truly memorable and impactful. If the film is able to make you think about the individual whom the picture is based upon hours after it's over, then at least it has left its mark. Director James Marsh and writer Anthony McCarten's The Theory of Everything works its way into our hearts, and inspires us all.
The love story between Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and Jane (Felicity Jones) starts as any other does. They find each other attractive, and they get to talking. It's a bit awkward at first, but they quickly warm up to each other. With Stephen and Jane pursuing their educational goals, everything seems perfect, until he discovers that he has fallen ill and only has two years to live. As this disease continues to render his body useless, he strives to make his brain stronger.
Stephen Hawking is one of the most brilliant minds to ever exist on this planet. He has made revolutionary discoveries and has become an inspiration to the entire world. Making a movie about him is risky, since the filmmakers and its cast have such monumental expectations to fill. Even though The Theory of Everything is largely about his illness and the issues that it caused for those around him, it's even more so about the growing relationship that he shared with Jane. Anthony McCarten's adaptation of Jane Hawking's book truly does a wonderful job at capturing a young love that faced undeniable odds that weren't on their side. We truly get that "fly-on-the-wall" effect, as the conversations feel so utterly convincing. As we continue to see this relationship evolve, it doesn't take very long to develop a true connection with both of the roles. Even though we know the Hawkings' story, the journey is truly something worth experiencing at the cinema.
Some may complain that Stephen's journey in being realized by the world as a genius isn't entirely realized. There isn't as much talk about his theories as some of his admirers may hope for, but this is a film that is meant to be about the central issues within this epic relationship that defied the odds. Fortunately, the film doesn't only treat its subjects with drama, as the picture has a good sense of humor. While we do witness Stephen and Jane's difficulties and frustrations, they occasionally make light of the situation. McCarten delivers some comedic elements through various sequences, such as when Stephen spends time with his university friends. There's a nice rhythm to the humor that makes it feel organic, rather than working against the dramatic core that the film possesses. This screenplay has its hiccups, but the balance of dramatic and comedic elements elevate the feature to a more believable level that truly make the audience feel as if we're watching the events first-hand.
The third act of the film primarily focuses upon where Stephen and Jane ended up, and how fame has changed their lives forever. Somewhere within the third act, the picture falls into some of the biopic clichés that we've become familiar with over the years. This pulled me out of the film towards the end, as it tries to get some tears out of the audience. While it certainly earns it emotions, it feels like a rather contrived way of achieving the tears. While I never cried during it, the feature most certainly keeps you invested in the story and concerned about each and every problem that Stephen and Jane encounter. This could have easily transformed into a mess of sappy emotions, but the film has a sense of restraint through the majority of the picture that truly makes this an involving cinematic experience.
This is a feature that would absolutely fall into pieces without dynamic lead actors that can handle these complex characters. Fortunately, director James Marsh was able to get some capable actors on board. Eddie Redmayne delivers an unforgettable performance as Stephen Hawking. He perfectly displays a legend at various stages of his life in a truly brilliant way. Even as Hawking's disease continues to affect him, Redmayne masters body language and vocal patterns, leading us to believe that this is Hawking. This is so much more than a performance. Consider him a lock-in nomination for this year's Oscars. Felicity Jones is excellent as Jane Hawking. She manages to deliver a plethora of complex emotion without speaking a word of dialogue. She communicates so much expression, that we're led to entirely believe her in this role. With Redmayne and Jones together on screen, we're left awestruck.
Director James Marsh's direction is quite strong. The Academy Award winner delivers an atmosphere that truly resonates with the audience. The cinematography shines quite often with its beautifully polished tone, making this a pleasure to look at. The hair and makeup department is tremendous in The Theory of Everything. Given that this takes place over quite a number of years, a wide array of technique is required to make this a convincing love story, and the crew manages to do just that here. Stephen and Jane age so convincingly that it truly manages to deliver a believable timeline.
The Theory of Everything is an exceptional cinematic experience that pushes genre boundaries. This is an epic love tale that proves entirely engaging, even with the issues that are prevalent in the third act. Eddie Redmayne is transfixing in his Oscar-worthy portrayal of Stephen Hawking. Felicity Jones is brilliant as Jane Hawking. Together, they permeate the heart and soul, making for what could be considered one of the most genuine displays of love in the cinema this year. The Theory of Everything is beautiful, well-crafted, and full of heart. Highly recommended!