The Theory of Everything (2014)
Director: James Marsh
Screenwriter: Anthony McCarten
Starring: Eddie Redmayne; Felicity Jones
British director James Marsh was first noticed by the Academy of Motion Pictures as a documentary film-maker with his excellent work on the story of Philippe Petit’s tight rope walk between New York City’s Twin Towers in the incredibly uplifting Man On Wire (2008). True to the form that won him a golden statue in 2009, Marsh’s 2014 drama The Theory Of Everything has presented a moving insight into the life of an extraordinary man with an incomparable story while encouraging performances that are no less than outstanding.
Eddie Redmayne’s performance as the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis ridden professor and the consequential transformation from babyfaced Oxford undergraduate to middle-aged and wheelchair-bound father was nothing short of sensational. In a role that could’ve easily provoked reactions to the contrary of moving, and even insulted people in the process, Redmayne’s grace and muted power inside the character was fitting of the incredible man he played and was utilised in such a way that I couldn’t possibly imagine him missing out on the Academy Award at this year’s ceremony.
Felicity Jones was also fantastic in a role that I had previously thought to be too big for her. Playing Stephen’s long-term wife Jane, Jones encapsulated what inner strength it took for her character to make such a huge decision as standing by him through his diagnosis at such a young age through changes as minute as the angle of her lips. That’s not to say that she didn’t hold her own in the dramatic battles of the piece, because she more than did. In fact, I’d say that she excelled. In many respects, Jones’ character was the centerpiece of the story given that the picture was based on the autobiography of the real Ms. Hawking, meaning that Jones was required to carry the narrative through much of the second act once Stephen’s illness worsened. Jones stood up to this test like a true great and should have put herself on the map as one of the new faces of Hollywood as a result.
Both Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne must owe a debt of gratitude to director James Marsh for their profound collaborative effort because his work behind the screen not only brought out career high performances, but did so from a pair of artists that were not yet in their prime and were given such a huge task to undertake. Both Redmayne and Jones, being in their early 30s, had to portray characters over a period of time as long as each of them have been alive while staying true to the material and the real people. Marsh’s guidance must have been a critical part of this process and plaudits must be attributed to him for this. Furthermore, Marsh’s means of storytelling reinforced what the actors were playing in that the entire production was in no way patronising to Hawking or his disability, and not once did it seem inappropriate as a subject matter despite its massively personal underlying story. Marsh made the movie feel seemless and it is for this reason that it became moving – we weren’t distracted by elaborate costumes or make-up as time rolled by and Redmayne’s character’s condition worsened.
My only detraction from the entire picture came as a result of my own pessimism and therefore logical conclusion that some areas of the story had been brushed over as a means of portraying each character as inspirational – in my opinion they were not nearly flawed enough. But, I feel that Marsh made it very clear from the first minute of the film that this was to be an ultimately personal tale of the struggle of Stephen and Jane Hawkings, with the key theme becoming love rather than knowledge, instead of an in-depth look at the struggles of his illness and the astounding brain of the man, something that could sway opinion one way or another.
My lasting impressions are that this is one of the top three movies of this year’s Academy Award nominees and was by far the most moving of the lot. Sure, it was contrived to be such, but it did so with grace and intimacy that shall (in my opinion) lead it to at least one golden statue at this year’s ceremony.