The Theory of Everything
Of all Stephen Hawking’s accomplishments, nothing is more commendable than the magic involved in his divorce. When is that ever said?
Director James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything makes you watch a powerful, dramatic film that you would otherwise choose to avoid. Starting in Cambridge, England in 1963, we get a look at the genius physicist Stephen Hawking as he discovers intellectual magnificence, the first love of his life and the onset of the incurable illness known as Lou Gehrigs Disease.
Mr. Hawking is played in an Oscar-winning performance by Eddie Redmayne, and the savage decay of Hawking’s body is close to overwhelming. Matched by Felicity Jones’ endearing performance as Jane, the woman he hopes to marry, he initially simply wants to reject her and all outside contact with life. Yet you quickly get an understanding of Hawking’s incredible mental discipline when he finds comfort in the fact that his brain will never lose its power.
Though Hawking is only given two years to live, Ms. Jones doesn’t waver as a wife whose love of her husband will not be stopped by a deadly illness. The movie subsequently follows their horrendously difficult marriage and the birth of three children, and Ms. Jones sacrifices her own educational pursuit given the overwhelming demands of physically caring for her increasingly disabled husband.
Again, this is not an easy movie to watch, particularly as Hawking loses his ability to walk and barely retains his speech. Redmayne literally becomes the physically disabled Hawking, and every moment is profoundly moving. The only drawback was the unfortunate fact that you were left wishing that Director Marsh had considered it a compliment to Hawking’s legacy to provide subtitles with the film.
The movie is based on the book entitled “Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen” by Ms. Hawking. Despite the stress of a marriage that gradually drove a wedge between them in spite of their dedication to each other, Ms. Hawking pulls no punches when it comes to her relationship with an outgoing and dedicated caregiver who is now her husband. No excuses are offered for the fact that both became involved with other people, as this was an exceptional marriage that reached a chasm that neither had a bridge to cross.
The film is helped immensely by supporting performances, most notably David Thewlis as Hawking’s mentor. Simon McBurney and Lucy Chappell are also memorable as Hawking’s parents, and they were the first to suggest that their daughter-in-law seek some assistance in caring for the demands of their son. In addition, the magnificent Emily Watson has a short appearance as Jane Hawking’s mother, a woman who wants to be supportive but also refuses to ignore the demands on her daughter.
Finally, you also can’t overlook significant performances by Charlie Cox and Maxine Peake. They play interesting, supremely caring individuals who the Hawkings eventually chose as their next spouses, and this is a film where the so-called destruction of a marriage can only be honored.
As an aside, look for a moment near the end where Hawking, no longer able to talk, is summoned to Westminster Abbey to meet the Queen. Though he and Jane were divorced, he insists through a letter that she join him for that moment given the incredible contribution she had made to his marvelous career. You couldn‘t help but love them both for recognizing the value of their past.