Rating: 6 out of 10
The Theory of Everything, for which lead actor Eddie Redmayne and writer Kiwi Anthony McCarten have recieved Oscar nominations is the story of world renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, an extraordinary life and the love between Hawking and his wife Jane (the also Oscar-nominated Felicity Jones).
Beginning with Hawking's time at Cambridge University, the story weaves in love with Hawking's attraction to, a devout Christian, where Hawking does not believe in God, before threatening to derail this love story with the crippling diagnosis of the terrible neurological problem of Motor Neurone Disease.
It's easy to see why the film has had so many Oscar nominations; the prestige biopic has an unbelievable lead who transcends and transforms into the role of Stephen Hawking so easily that you barely notice any more that it's Redmayne.
From Redmayne's initial appearance as the Cambridge boy through to the chair- bound Hawking, he's a commanding presence, pulling in some of the more mischievous elements of the physicist, such as his sly wit and obsession with Penthouse and giving more than he ever could with just a few facial twitches or movements. There's no denying the commitment to the role here and no taking away from the fact that Redmayne's performance will be hard to beat this year.
Equally, Felicity Jones brings a subtlety as Hawking's wife Jane. Hers is a role of quiet compassion, growing frustration and aching sympathy as Jane deals with every blow that comes her way during the difficult relationship. In fact, it's really a film of two halves with the first half being Hawking's story and the second being all about Jane as she fights an attraction to a helper and a growing chasm in her marriage with Hawking.
But curiously, the performances are perhaps the only two elements that shine out in what really is a well-polished but incredibly ordinary movie; it has a warmth but doesn't have the emotional pull that you'd expect or hope for when studying such an inspirational life. For me personally, I have a keen interest in Physics and was expecting a little more of Hawking's work to feature in the movie
The beats of the story follow the well-worn and predictable road of telemovie fodder (there's good news and then the next shot sees something bad threaten to derail it all) as it treads the path of convention. This is not necessarily a bad thing given how beautifully shot and framed it all is, but in among all the loveliness and transcendant performances, the slavish mawkish elements of the script and storyline (replete with piano music here and there) unfortunately conspire to try and ground two stellar performances in tropes that you've seen all too often.
While not packing quite the emotional pull you might expect, The Theory of Everything is buoyed by two simply terrific performances that help elevate the flick from the predictably sentimental story.