January 22, 2015

The Theory of Everything

James Marsh, 2014
This biopic shows the life of renowned physicist Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) from his college days at Cambridge to his later years after suffering a rare neurological disease.

Theory is just a simple love story between two simple people. Nah, not really. It's actually a complicated love story involving a sweet young English girl named Jane (Felicity Jones) and a theoretical physicist who happens to be one of the most brilliant minds of our modern history. The film begins in Hawking's college years. His life is similar to that of many college kids. Roommates, beers with with buddies, busting chops. He has surrounded himself with loyal friends. They are close, respectful of each other. They encourage each other in their successes. Maybe that's an English thing. He meets Jane and it's quite obvious that it's love at first sight. There is the obligatory boyfriend roadblock that Stephen must endure (shortly) but after he does the sparks fly. But it's a unique relationship in the sense that Stephen can literally quantify the atomic mass of those sparks to interested Jane. Theory sort of takes on the Good Will Hunting approach of showing the guy working away on the chalkboard. He may as well be writing Chinese poetry for those who aren't fluent in advanced physics. But fortunately for dummies like me, the movie is more about the relationship between Jane and Stephen. And of course his sudden tragic illness. His illness hits at a point that is normally a healthy peak for most young men. At an age where most young men feel invincible. And why wouldn't they? You can literally go out with your mates and throw back pints all night and not even have a trace of a hangover the next day. Stephen is told that he has two years to live, misdiagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease. The doctor describes how his body will shut down slowly to the point that he will be completely paralyzed. He is quick to ask about his brain. Of course in pure ironic fashion, his precious brain will be unscathed. It's not only Stephen that realizes that he has this precious mind. Everyone around him is stunned to hear the news, and you get a sense that everyone is eager to preserve Stephen's mind. Jane is the one willing to take on the biggest workload. Through sickness and through health, as the saying goes. Her patience is tested, her commitment to the marriage. The movie examines the personal sacrifices and the devotion to your mate. Dealing with the unpredictable elements that life throws at you. Stephen can look up to the sky and make advanced calculations and probabilities of the universe, but he is so limited that he must rely on poor Jane to put his sweaters on or to feed him.

It's a really nice looking film. Lots of shifting colors. There is a constant golden glow that is reminiscent to fellow sharp mind story Limitless. Felicity Jones proves that she's one of the better young actors working right now. And Redmayne, well his performance is nothing short of remarkable. He so impressively manages to push through his physical deterioration with such authenticity and careful restraint. His smile shifts to one of young innocence to one of pure struggle as the story progresses. But it's a film filled with good acting - not one bad performance. It will have you appreciating the things you have, the people around you. You will sympathize, you will try to understand. Figures like Hawking are rare gems. Many are aware of his scientific achievements, but it's welcoming to see it on film. This biopic is right on time.

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