The Theory of Everything Review: The Unification of Science and Love

Photo Credit:http://www.focusfeatures.com/the_theory_of_everything

This may be a biopic of Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne), but the story really belongs to Jane Wilde Hawking (Felicity Jones), the woman that would bring both the best and the worst out of the celebrated physicist.

The Theory of Everything is as much about science as it is about love. Jane’s importance in Stephen’s life is clear right from their initial meeting. Both students at Cambridge University, he is obviously in the sciences while she studies languages and art. It’s the typical balancing act you might expect from the “perfect couple” shoved down our throats in a lot of other films. But, as history tells it, Stephen is diagnosed with a motor neuron disease that is expected to paralyze him over two years, at the end of which he is expected to die. That was back in the 1960s. Hawking is now 72 years old.

But, as Jane points out in one of the most heartbreaking moments of the film, she signed on for two years.

The Theory of Everything isn’t the heavy-handed feel-good biopic it looks to be. There are no easy solutions to the problems that arise in a marriage where one spouse makes their life’s work taking care of the other. They loved each other, and maybe they always will, but Stephen is a practical man that knows he can’t possibly give Jane everything she needs for the rest of her life. What we get is one of the most honest and true portrayals of love on screen this year, akin to the excellent Love is Strange from a few months ago.

To compliment this film without doing the same for Redmayne would be a disservice. This is as committed a performance as an actor can give. Redmayne bravely swings for the fences and just gets it over without feeling exploitative. But then there’s Jones’ career-making performance as a woman crumbling under it all. It is without a doubt one of the best pieces of cinema acting this year. She deserves every award she’s going to get.

Oddly enough, the other film this year most easily comparable to The Theory of Everything is Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi epic Interstellar. They share their search for the peak of human potential and try to push us even farther. They also both believe in the power of love, that it can transcend space and time as if sent through a black hole. The difference between the two is that The Theory of Everything weaves these two together flawlessly without forcing our hand to realize our potential through love. Yes, there’s a few lines of dialogue here that border on melodrama, but not nearly as frequently as the family drama half of Interstellar.

It’s hard not to look at The Theory of Everything and not think Oscar bait. It very well may be, but its multifaceted look at love and two otherwordly performances launch it to the next level of awards film: the ones you actually want to win. Grade: A-

By Matt Dougherty

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