I have had this movie on my watch list of 2014 movies for a while now, and even though it has been available to me for some time, I have not ever had the interest in actually turning it on. For what ever reason, there was always something else that felt like a better watch. So when I threw it on one week night while folding laundry with my wife, I thought I was tossing up something in the background while we talked and chored the night away. I thought I would get enough of it to say I saw it and understand the major points. Generally speaking, period pieces like this are not my cup of tea.
I had completely misjudged this film on every level. In watching Theory I had a true experience, the kind that only movies can provide. It is one of those films that reaches out and grabs you, freezes you in your tracks and says “stop what you’re doing, the movies on!” It took all 12 minutes to fold two baskets of laundry. At one point I found myself staring at the screen for about 20 minutes unmoving with a half folded pair of sweat pants dangling from my hand.
If you’re not aware or have not seen it, here is the synopsis of the movie from IMDB:
A look at the relationship between the famous physicist Stephen Hawking and his wife.
That really does sum it up. The story uses Hawkings major research into time (is it infinite or finite?) as an allegory for a very complicated and surprisingly positive relationship drama. Eddie Redmayne won Best Actor for his portrayal of Hawking this year, and Felicity Jones was nominated for her role as Jane. Both nominations were spot on in my opinion. Redmayne transforms in this movie, changing from a spry youth into a fully mature Hawking with advanced amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. It’s compelling to watch, and it completely wraps you up in the character. The subtlety with which he captures the little details that denote a progression of the disease is prefect. You always know what is going on, but you never feel like to much has been made obvious. It is perfect show, don’t tell story telling. At one point there is a moment when Hawking collapses quietly on the stair after awkwardly escaping a dinner party, and he looks at the top of the stairs and his toddler son is watching him the whole time. It is so moving, and he shows such a range of emotion in just that one scene its incredible. At several points I had to remind myself that this was an actor, because his portrayal of the famous Hawking almost seemed to real and torturous for someone not to pull off who was not actually suffering from this terrible disease.
Jones is superb. She invites the audience into her characters suffering and really serves as the true focal point of the movie. I was not aware before watching that this film was based on a book authored by Jane Hawking entitled My Life With Stephen, but knowing that now it is obvious that the movie is her story, not his. Or, rather, that she is the story-teller, our lens through which to view the life of this extraordinary paradox who we all know but could never hope to understand.
The visual story telling ties together the performances with the theme of time. There are regular images of things swirling around, like stars around a sun. The research and theories on time that Hawking has made his life’s work are woven into his personal story, and that celestial image is repeated as a spiral staircase or cream being stirred into a cup of coffee. It’s an uplifting movie about a compelling character whose body, like the universe, is constantly on the edge of spinning out of control but yet is perfectly held together at the same time.
In the big picture of 2014, I agree this was one of the best movies in have seen from that year. Despite its accolades I had low expectations, and was sorely mistaken in my judgement.
I would give The Theory of Everything a solid A on the MovieSlant rating scale.
Have you seen it? What was your favorite movie of 2014? Whiplash? Birdman? Blended? (Please don’t say Blended). Leave a comment and keep the conversation going!