What happens when you first see The Theory of Everything after Eddie Redmayne wins the Oscar for best actor? I was in this situation recently and can tell you that it creates a level of expectation on the role that’s entirely unfair, but assure you that Redmayne wholly lives up to it in his transformative portrayal of Stephen Hawking.
Though his counterpart, Felicity Jones, was unexpectedly magnificent. She plays Jane Hawking, a difficult part to play across from Redmayne, who’s brilliance is more often physical and in the way he’s able to bring out Stephen Hawking’s wit and charm. The film treads the delicate line between focusing too much on the ALS itself and casting an appropriate balance. Anthony McCarten’s screenplay allows Redmayne to dial into Hawking’s colorful sense of humor in the face of the disease.
Not to be mistaken, however, this is Jane Hawking’s life story after all. The film is based on her memoir. Jane is our protagonist, our strong-willed hero, and she’s playing an incredibly important role in moving the story forward, which means anything even translating for Stephen. It’s her responsibility to paint the everlasting love story Theory is said to be, and the film fails without her performance.
I did not know her story. The relationship with Jonathan, played by Charlie Cox, caught me by surprise. But this is Jane’s spiritual journey and for as much as she gave Stephen, she’s owed just as much happiness. She seeks it, while giving Stephen all of herself. Jones captures the essence of such a strong woman.
As a film trying to capture a lifetime, it moves awfully fast from time to time but never bores you by its length. We see snippets of a life shared and lived. All things considered, many films have faced such a challenge and few have been granted such memorable performances as the ones by Redmayne and, especially, Jones.
“The Theory of Everything”: ★★★