James Marsh’s film stays true to itself

By Britton Perelman, Staff Writer

4/5 Stars

As any good storyteller knows, sometimes the best stories come, not from a writer’s imagination, but from real life.  “The Theory of Everything” is one of those stories.

“The Theory of Everything,” directed by James Marsh, is the true story of renowned physicist Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and his first wife, Jane (Felicity Jones), whose memoir was the inspiration for the film.  It begins with their first meeting, shows the pair falling in love, and the slow decline as Stephen realizes something is very, very wrong. After he is diagnosed with a motor-neuron disease and given two years to live, the couple gets married and Stephen continues to work on his Ph.D. The film follows their life together, a course of over thirty years.

At its core, “The Theory of Everything” is a love story.  It isn’t about Hawking’s theories or the science he studies, it’s about the incredible story of his relationship with his wife, Jane, as they fight his disease and build a life together against impossible odds. And, while this may be a negative aspect for others, I love that the movie doesn’t try to be something it’s not. We don’t need to understand physics to be able to understand the bond shared between Stephen and Jane. The science is not left out, because it couldn’t be a movie about Stephen Hawking without it, but it doesn’t take center stage, the emotion does.

Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones are the backbone of the film. Their connection is so tangible, so real, it’s almost as if they’re having conversations solely with their eyes.  Both are perfection in their respective roles; every scene is handled with such care, each movement and spoken word expertly acted.  Jones, in a role supposedly written with her in mind, is spectacular. While Stephen deteriorates physically, Jane deals with the growing pressure that his illness puts on her and Jones handles the emotional deterioration Jane went through with such grace.

But nothing can compare to Eddie Redmayne’s performance.  Honestly, if his performance goes unrecognized at the Academy Awards in February, then I clearly know nothing about acting. Redmayne shows the collapse of Stephen’s body so accurately it seems impossible. He apparently charted the course of Stephen’s disease over time for his own personal reference and practiced facial expressions in the mirror for hours at a time.  Even when most of Stephen’s body movement is gone, Redmayne is able to convey emotion through a single twitch of his eye or mouth.

Accompanying the actors is breathtaking cinematography that does two very important things. First, through close ups we are able to track the failure of Stephen’s body parts. We see when his fingers begin to tremble, when his foot starts to go limp, and how his handwriting wobbles. And second, home-movie-like footage summarizes parts of Stephen and Jane’s life together in a way that feels incredibly authentic. We see their wedding, a day at the beach with their children, a gondola ride in the river in grainy, color-saturated shots that perfectly illustrate the highlights of their life.

“The Theory of Everything” is true to itself and true to the people it portrays and I respect that. I simply can’t say enough about this film. No spoilers here, but I do want to mention that the ending is truly beautiful -— one of the best I’ve seen.