The Theory of Everything

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You may be asking why I’m reviewing a movie on a book review site. The Theory of Everything is based on the memoir Travelling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen Hawking by Jane Hawking. After watching the movie, I plan on reading the book.

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I know almost nothing about Stephen Hawking’s real life, so I have no comparison between that and the movie. However, I thought the transformation the actors underwent was breathtaking. Eddie Redmayne WAS Stephen Hawking in this movie (and has already been nominated for a 2015 Golden Gold award for best actor). Hawking is adorable and charming only to discover he has a disease that will cease muscle function. The true scientist, he asks if it affects his brain (no, it doesn’t). Redmayne changes from a bit clumsy to nearly completely immobile in an electric wheelchair with a computer to speak for him. If you compare pictures of the actor and the physicist, they are amazingly same.

Hawking had already been courting a young woman named Jane (played by Felicity Jones) when he learns he has 2 years to live. When she hears what will happen to him, Jane says she loves him. The two are married, and while Hawking’s muscles stop working, the family grows (the couple have 2 children; there are no muscles in the penis, of course). Hawking, though almost completely immobile, is shown as funny, loving, and a good father. I watched as Felicity Jones changed from a bright, strong young woman working toward a degree in Literature to a woman who was so strong that it was often difficult to tell if she was struggling; she seems to know what Hawking wants before he can ask for it.

Jane is struggling to care for Hawking and 2 kids. The film suggests she doesn’t want to seem a failure because she is working so hard, but how can she not face difficulty? Not only are there physical issues and typical family problems, but Hawking is invited to lecture and travel, too. When Jane joins the choir at church (at the suggestion of her mother), she meets the director, Jonathan (Charlie Cox), a man who is handsome, widowed, and helpful. One can’t help but wonder if the mother knew Jonathan had all those qualities, which was the motive behind her suggestion. You want to hate Jonathan because you know he’s going to encroach on Hawking’s family, but watch as Jonathan actually does help the family. Hawking is friends with Jonathan, who is ever the gentleman. Really, it felt ingenious of the director to choose Cox; he was the loveable, adorable Tristan inStardust. It would almost be too much to believe Cox was capable of hurting the Hawking family. However, once a 3rd baby is born, the couple’s families want to know if the baby’s father is Jonathan or Hawking. Jane says there is no way the baby could belong to Jonathan, and Jones makes you believe her with her steely gaze and stern mouth.

Eventually, the Hawkings must accept help from a nurse, and this is when Elaine Mason is hired to care for Hawking. After meeting him, Elaine tells Jane that Hawking is brilliant and the model patient, and that Jane is lucky. After years as his personal nurse, this is not what Jane wants to hear from the new lady. Elaine seems to “get” Hawking’s non-scientific side in a way that makes Jane seem impatient. When a copy of a pornographic magazine arrives, Hawking types into his speaking machine, “That is for a friend.” The scene shows Hawking’s humor, and Elaine, also amusing, puts the magazine for him on a music stand and asks when he wants the pages turned. Peake is delightful as Elaine Mason, but I’ve read that a nurse accused Peake of abusing Hawking, so I felt suspicious of the woman in the movie (even though the film depicts her so that we like her).

Ultimately, time tells us that Hawking marries Elaine, and that Jane marries Jonathan, though Jane and Hawking remain good friends.

The film is based on Jane Hawking’s book Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen Hawking. If you look on Goodreads, the book has 100+ reviews, meaning it’s not well-read (in comparison, Fifty Shades of Gray has 965,000+). The film might change that. She also has a number of 1-star reviews, and readers confess they felt Jane knew what she was getting into when she married Hawking, so why “complain” (to me, this is unbelievably cold).

However, there are noble moments in the movie that would contradict what readers claim: when Jane is offered the chance to turn off Hawking’s life support after he can no longer breathe on his own (yes, it is presented as a “chance”—doctors can see that caring for Hawking is the horribly difficult and draining his young wife), she doesn’t think about it for a second. Also, the movie implies that Jane possibly cheated on Hawking only after the couple realizes they aren’t going to make it together. Jane remains a strong figure in Hawking’s life, and never once did I dislike her in the movie. Of course she struggling; anyone who rubs that in her face (either after reading the book or watching the movie) is pretty unforgiving.

The pacing of the movie is steady, indicating time has passed by showing the children growing or Hawking faring worse (physically). We also see stores stocking Hawking’s writings. The story begins and ends in the fashion that Americans love: happy. Hawking says, “Look what we did” as he and Jane watch their children play together.

Overall, The Theory of Everything was worth the watch. The cast was strong and carefully chosen, and the story was contained in the right amount of time, and an interesting look into the romantic, personal side of a world-famous physicist.

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