Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Theory of Everything - physics and chemistry

movie review

Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking may have a theory on everything, except love

Stephen Hawking’s life has been nothing short of remarkable. Not only has the world-renowned physicist achieved a plethora of accomplishments and distinctions in his illustrious career, but he has done so by defying all expectations while traversing a path that has been profoundly inspirational. It is primarily this latter aspect of his story that is captured in The Theory of Everything, the biographical drama about the trials and triumphs of the cosmologist’s life.

The narrative spins around Hawking’s relationship with his first wife, Jane Wilde, whose book Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen inspired the movie.

It is the early 1960s, and Stephen Hawking (portrayed brilliantly by Eddie Redmayne) is still a graduate student at the University of Cambridge, where he meets literature student Jane (Felicity Jones). She is a devout believer while he is an outspoken atheist; yet they fall for each other. But then life throws a spanner in the works — at the age of 21, Hawking is diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a degenerative motor neuron disease. The prognosis? An average life expectancy of two years.

Life practically hands him a death sentence but with Jane’s unflinching support, he defies all odds. They marry and have three kids while he continues coming up with groundbreaking scientific theories while searching for “one simple, elegant equation to explain everything”. It’s a beautiful love story, complicated by reality. The agony of the situation is matched by the strength of the human spirit, but even that can’t prevent the union’s ultimate dissolution.

As with many biopics, some of the wrinkles have been ironed and rough edges smoothed out. Every character is displayed under a positive light, stripping the story of some of its more prickly aspects. And the film is by no means comprehensive; those who are looking for an exploration of Stephen Hawking’s scientific work are bound to be disappointed by The Theory of Everything’s focus on his personal life. Still, the theoretical discourse that is presented in the film is finely weaved into the narrative, and director James Marsh occasionally employs some stellar, artistic shots and sequences that beautifully supplement its protagonist’s ideas.

The main highlight of the movie, though, is Eddie Redmayne’s wonderful performance in this very challenging part. His transformation into Hawking is remarkable, and he embodies the character’s charm brilliantly while conveying the emotional depth of the role. Felicity Jones is also terrific as Jane and carries her part radiantly.

Filled with love, sadness, wit and wisdom and propelled by Redmayne’s standout, award-worthy performance, The Theory of Everything succeeds in relaying an extraordinary story that emotionally resonates with viewers. Its overall approach may be conventional and both the journey and the science may have been simplified, but the film on the whole is impressively made and very affecting.

Rating: 4 out of  5

- By Sameen Amer

Sunday Magazine, The Express Tribune - 21st December, 2014 *

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