The Theory of Everything

Stephen Hawking, Eddie Redmayne , Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything

Eddie Redmayne & Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything

The uplifting Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything (trailer) is well worth seeing. The basic outlines of the story are well known. In his student days at Cambridge, Hawking developed a neuromotor disease that affects the body, not the brain, and was given two years to live. Such a diagnosis would end the ambitions of most people, but he survived to become preeminent in the fields of theoretical physics and cosmology with numerous British and international honors, including a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest U.S. civilian honor.

Hawking also has tried to make the complexities of the physical sciences accessible for non-scientists, and his book, A Brief History of Time, has sold more than 10 million copies. I have the Illustrated edition, and I’ve read it, picture captions and all. (So, I actually know what the Heisenberg uncertainty principle is: let’s see, you can know the speed of an object or its location, but you cannot know both at the same time. Please, no questions.)

Eddie Redmayne is superlative as Hawking, and Felicity Jones convincing as his devoted first wife, Jane. The film avoids the typical mawkishness traps, in large part because, as Rene Rodriguez says in the Miami Herald, “Redmayne keeps you focused on the soul of a man trapped inside a malfunctioning body.” The supporting cast is singularly excellent too.

The movie is based on a book written by Jane, whom Hawking met at Cambridge shortly before the neurological problems began to surface. The couple have three children, and he is portrayed as a loving father. It ends some 25 years later, in the late 1980s.

There’s only a smattering of science and mathematics in the movie; in general, it’s about coping against greater odds than a person can at all reasonably be expected to overcome. The movie suggests, not unreasonably, that Jane’s determination was a significant factor in keeping him alive. Not just surviving, thriving. Rotten Tomatoes critics rating: 81%; audiences 84%.