Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones take to the big screen as Professor Stephen Hawking and his first wife Jane in this awards heavy triumph.
I find myself in quite a good place at the moment as I am making regular trips to the cinema before the big awards ceremonies take place. Having been through a period where the cinema became something of a rarity for me I am pleased to say that I am back in full swing and visiting on a near weekly basis. The latest film I managed to see was the critically acclaimed Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything, directed by James Marsh. It is safe to say that I did thoroughly enjoy the film and it was because most elements are finely polished.
In terms of narrative structure I don’t necessarily have a problem. I think the film has the difficult task of covering a lot of events that span across years but it manages this very well. I have been informed that some events have been changed on the big screen because there were certain things that weren’t allowed in the film and obviously as we can expect certain things had to be changed in order to help the pace, certificate rating and various other elements as we see in most films based on true events. I was worried when I was approaching the film because I went in wanting it to focus on Hawking’s work to a certain extent. I feared that this may have been jeopardised by the fact it was said to focus on the relationship between the young couple. I found myself pleasantly surprised because my cynicism was without cause. It was not over indulgent or watered down Hollywood romantic nonsense. There was a very nice balance of the relationship and his work as well so I think it worked perfectly in that sense.
The screenplay was also quite impressive, managing to present this young couple who are falling in love and then progressing them through to married life but it does so in a manner that doesn’t make you want to be sick in to your popcorn. It shows that yes Stephen Hawking was a nervous sort, and yes he was unconfident around women, but this didn’t fall into the region of trying to show him as some quirky character you often find in romantic films. The screenplay was actually rather impressive, showing how the two of them fell in love by talking. There’s a wonderful scene when the two of them first meet and the young Stephen Hawking is trying to explain his subject field to Jane and finds it difficult because she’s quite religious and his subject is the complete opposite. I think it was scenes such as this that made the film stand out for me because it showed how the love between the two of them was not something instant like a firework going off, but rather it was like a wall being built brick by brick or a puzzle fitting together piece by piece and it was very romantic. Also on the flipside of this it manages to show the failures of the relationship rather well, much like seeing that once the wall has been built it can easily be taken apart again brick by brick, which in this instance was done so in a heartbreaking fashion that did squeeze a few tears out of me.
I have to say I thought visually the film was very good. The cinematography was rather impressive because this is a story in which the little details matter. I thought it was very good how the camera focuses on little things like the positioning and direction of Hawking’s feet as he walked, or the movements of his mouth because it all shows how his health is slowly deteriorating so it helps to show not only the smaller changes that take place gradually but also the quite large ones that happen at a greater speed.
If you haven’t heard about the acting then one can only assume you live in a hole in the ground and spend your days whitewashing your walls because the cast is superb. The supporting cast is very strong, in particular actors such as David Thewlis stood out for me. However, it is the two leading roles that are the most impressive. Eddie Redmayne is of course fantastic as Professor Hawking, mastering the speech and physical movements to give a performance that is quite rightfully nominated for the Academy Award. I would love to see him get it but the chances of the Academy favouring him are very low. I am overjoyed that he has taken home the BAFTA as I really like the awards, so I guess him missing out on an Oscar wouldn’t be such a big deal because they don’t mean an awful lot to me anyway. But in all of quick fire reviews or posters and tv spots there is never really a mention of how wonderful Felicity Jones is as Hawking’s wife. She manages to capture all of the excitement of being young romantics, but then also the jaded look of the woman who tried as hard as she could to keep the love alive but knew her efforts were in vain. There was a scene in particular featuring Jones and a letter board that I defy anyone to watch without it tugging on their heart strings. It was an outstanding performance and again one I would love to see awarded by the Academy but I have doubts.
The thing I didn’t expect from the film that I think I found most interesting was the philosophical side. There’s quite a lot of talk of God and whether or not this universe was created by a God and it adds an extra dimension to the film. Hawking was complex in his views about God and you do see him shift backwards and forwards on the belief scale, but the scenes in which the characters openly debate are the ones that I found most interesting. In particular there is a scene in which the conductor of the church choir, who later goes on to fall in love with Jane, is sat at the dinner table with Professor Hawking and they end up in quite a heated debate on the matter. I thought this scene was fantastic and actually quite comical on a number of levels. However, what I liked most about the film’s approach to this debate was how it leaves it very open. It would have been easy to sit on one side and say that yes a god does exist or sit on the other and say no gods exists at all, but what the film does is just remain open. It doesn’t make it’s mind up. It even shows how Hawking had an open mind and was merely seeking the answers. What the film does not do is attempt to provide an answer, and that is nothing short of admirable.
I’m glad to have seen this film have success at the BAFTAs, not only for Redmayne’s rightful win but also the win for the best British film. I just feel like this film is important. Not only is it a big and bold British film that clearly secures our seat at all of the awards ceremonies, but also because the story is so important. It’s a film that celebrates one of the most important minds that this world has ever seen. It celebrates the work of a man who constantly questioned things around him, he constantly pursued answers to some of the largest questions humanity can form. He is even a man who questioned himself. He would finish his work and then immediately challenge it. He is a truly remarkable human and he shows what determination really is. The doctors gave him a time scale in which they thought he would pass away, and he has consistently defied that and still lives today. It was an utterly fascinating film about a fascinating man and the person whom he loved, and I just admire it as a whole for being a bold and unashamedly British film that can give any of the other motion picture nominees a run for their money.
Now there is a small matter I need to address. Exactly one week before I saw this film I went to see the film Whiplash which is another film that is tipped very heavily at the awards. And when I came home from seeing the film I posted a picture on Instagram of myself and my good friend Holly who I saw both films with, and the picture’s caption was “go and see this film now” because we both really enjoyed it. And underneath this a good friend of mine, Mr Tom Allison, posted a comment saying “let me ask you this… is it better than the theory of everything because I think that movie is simply the best movie I’ve ever seen?”. At the time I couldn’t answer the question because I hadn’t seen The Theory of Everything, however now that I have seen it I can answer that question. In my opinion, they’re not really comparable. I think Whiplash managed to grasp my attention more and intrigued me because I barely knew anything about it, but on an emotional level and in terms of scale and cinematic mastery I think The Theory of Everything was above Whiplash. I do need to see both films again and I think I will have to write a more detailed comparison of the two, just so Tom’s question gets the answer it deserves, but for the time being it is difficult for me to say which is better.
Overall I felt that the film was fantastic, a really impressive piece of storytelling that is brilliantly made and executed. For the most part it did not feel as though I was watching Eddie Redmayne because his performance was so incredible. It reminded me very much of Daniel Day Lewis in My Left Foot, and I honestly feel it would be an act of injustice if he does not take away the Oscar this year. It was not perfect and it is not the best film I have ever seen (apologies Tom) but it was still hugely impressive and it had me crying at different points. It may have been more emotionally draining for me as I’ve recently been through a break up so it was crushing to see this relationship blossom on screen and then slowly decay right before my eyes, but then again I would challenge anyone with a beating heart to see this and not get emotional.
As always thank you very much for taking the time to read this. If you’re a regular reader then this is your fault if you didn’t enjoy this. If you’re new to this blog then please feel free to leave through the door you entered, however I cannot guarantee a refund of the minutes spent reading this. If you have any thoughts you’d like to share or any questions you would like answering then please feel free to leave a comment below and I shall respond hopefully within twenty four hours.