Trailer for the unaware:
As I continue my trek through the Best Picture nominations, I now traverse the infinite and the intimate in The Theory of Everything. The film covers the extraordinary life and his extraordinary wife, Jane, of Stephen Hawking, one of the most known scientists of the 20th century. Perhaps in popular culture, he is best known due to his condition, ALS and the robotic voice:
It’s really quite extraordinary just how masterfully Eddie Redmayne (nominated for Best Actor) and Felicity Jones (nominated for Best Actress) capture their respective roles. Redmayne with not just the manner of speech, but the mannerisms required to contort his body, his limbs and his facial structure. There’s a silent intensity behind his eyes. At the same time, he can flip to levity with Hawking’s humor and wit merely manifest in a sly smile or a raised eyebrow. Jones, likewise, manages a delicate balance between a woman pushed to her limits (caring for someone like Hawking, his condition and his brain, as well as their three children) and a woman capable of being pushed to her limits. She’s strong, but she’s still mortal, after all.
The film largely looks at Hawking’s life through the lens of his marriage to Jane. Despite being told he’d only live for two years after being diagnosed, he’s still alive and in his early 70’s. It’s remarkable and a testament in the film, to, as he says, remain hopeful as long as there is life.
No doubt, the film is anchored by these two subtle and powerful performances, but arguably, it’s James Marsh’s sensitive direction that keeps it on course. This film very easily could have veered into over-sentimentality, but I think he captures just the right essence of charm, humor, angst and brilliance needed in bringing the life, personal and public, of Hawking to the big screen. There’s a balance here: Hawking is a brilliant man. Of that, there is no doubt, even to a science novice like myself. However, his condition doesn’t preclude him from being a dick or selfish at times and that’s reflected in the strain put on Jane. I’m appreciative of that unbiased lens on Hawking’s life.
Finally, something that’s often overlooked because as moviegoers, we focus on the performances and the story, is just how gorgeously shot this film is. The French cinematographer, Benoît Delhomme, is masterful here playing with different hues throughout. There’s a particular shot soon after Hawking learns of his disease, where he’s sitting in front of the television basked in a red glow that’s one of the more stunning visual scenes I’ve seen in cinema this year (or last, rather).
Now, I’ve only seen two roles featured in the Best Actor category (Bradley Cooper and Redmayne here), but I’d say Redmayne edges Cooper because of the physical transformation. Both had understated, powerhouse performances, however.