James Marsh’s polished direction really shines throughout this movie as do his two leading actors; Eddie Redmayne as famed theoretical physicist – Stephen Hawking and Felicity Jones as his first wife – Jane Wile Hawking.
Redmayne’s outstanding portrait of Stephen won him Academy Award for Best Actor. The movie received number of accolades and awards in film festivals.
Based on adaptation of Jane’s book; ‘Travelling to Infinity; My life with Stephen’, movie is partly biography and partly romantic drama.
While Stephen co-operated with the production and described the movie as ‘broadly true’, number of biographical details has clearly been ‘broadly’ interpreted.
The movie opens in beautifully quintessential English scenery of Cambridge University’s grounds where young Stephen is a healthy and active postgraduate student who falls deeply in love with a fellow student Jane Wilde.
Stephen is already consumed by cosmology and known as somewhat ‘weird’ but lovable character who loves beer, rides bicycles dangerously and enjoys occasional mischief-making. He is passionate about discovering ‘one simple, beautiful equation that will explain everything’.
Jane is an art student with special interest in French and medieval Spanish poetry. She is active in Church of England, prompting Stephen to comment; ‘suppose someone has to’.
The scene in which they kiss for the first time beneath fireworks at a May ball in 1963 is breathtakingly beautiful. The symbolism of it keeps incurable romantics, such as yours truly; continuing to believe in the magic power of the true love’s first kiss … when time stops and skies sing, and the whole world glows like fireflies in the summer night.
In real life however, Jane was a student at London not Cambridge when they first met which was after, rather than before, Stephen’s diagnosis.
When, at tender age of 21 Stephen receives devastating diagnosis that he suffers from a motor neuron disease delivered to him in a matter-of-fact manner in an eerily empty hospital hall by a doctor who is ‘ever so sorry’, Stephen initially withdraws into himself with the knowledge that he has two years left to live.
Despite her initial efforts being deliberately ignored by Stephen in an effort to let her go and get on with her own life, Jane is not dismayed and eventually reaches out to Stephen. The scene in which she made him leave his room to play croquet only to realize for the first time full extent of his illness is painfully tender. It also marks the beginning of decades long fight against all odds because; ‘I love him and he loves me’ is the only explanation Jane offers. It is indeed the only explanation needed.
In years to follow Jane supports Stephen who embarks on his most ambitious scientific work – study of time that culminated in ‘The brief history of time’ bestseller.
They become parents to three young children which places further demands on Jane who is already coping with her husband’s sever disabilities as well as growing international fame, especially for his work on black holes and gravitational singularities.
As Stephen’s condition worsens, he is forced to replace walking sticks with a wheelchair, his speech starts to slur and he loses the ability to feed himself. Ultimately, this brilliant but complex genius is left unable to walk, talk or even breathe unaided.
It required all of Jane’s quiet but steely resolve to continue, especially when Stephen insisted that they are ‘just a normal family’ and do not need home-based help.
Eventually however he agrees that ‘Jane needs help’ and that help comes from Jonathan, an organist and a widower who has no children or other commitments and offers his help willingly. Jonathan becomes part of Hawking’s family during 1970s and eventually Jane develops emotional but, initially, platonic relationship with him. Jane eventually marries Jonathan after her marriage to Stephen ends in 1990.
In 1985 Stephen contracts pneumonia during a visit to Geneva (in a movie that occurs in Bordeaux) and he is given a tracheotomy that destroys his remaining powers of speech. After the operation, Stephen requires around the clock care and team of nurses is hired. One of them is Elaine with whom Stephen develops deep attachment. On their wedding anniversary in 1990, Stephen told Jane that their marriage is over and he moves in with Elaine whom he marries five years later.
In one of the movie’s last scene’s Stephan and Jane are seen talking candidly in the magnificent yet peaceful surroundings of royal gardens moments after their reception by the Queen, while Stephen points towards their three children playing nearby and tells Jane; ‘Look what we have made.’
While, if compared to the real-life events, at least as publicly reported, it could be said that movie-makers have made considerable effort to portray Stephen and Jane’s relationship as overly romantic and carefully avoided some of the less-than-pleasant occurrences, such as reportedly difficult circumstances of Stephen marriage to Eliane and their divorce in 2006, the movie nevertheless succeeded in telling the story of enduring power of love and hope.
Story of a man who simply refused to give up hope because, in his own words; ‘However bad life may seem, where there is life, there is hope’.
That may not be ‘the theory of everything’, but it is theory of life and life is everything.