By William Wolf

TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2014--THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING  Send This Review to a Friend

One of the world’s most famous and honored theoretical physicists is Stephen Hawking, renowned for his writings and teachings about the universe involving the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. But he is also known for the remarkable odds he has overcome by continuing to work productively despite being stricken early in his adult life by a motor neuron illness related to ALS, known informally as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The photos of his distorted body in a wheelchair, coupled with the need for technology to enable him to communicate, have touched the hearts of those in and out of the scientific community.

“The Theory of Everything,” showcased at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival,” movingly dramatizes the Hawking story, thanks in large part to the memorable performance as Hawking by Eddie Redmayne, surely likely to be considered for awards. The screenplay, written by Anthony McCarten, is based on the memoir “Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen,” by Jane Hawking, who was married to the physicist for more than 25 years and with whom she had three children. James Marsh has directed the film in the full-fledged style of high drama mingled with personal detail.

Such a saga has much to be covered, and this is accomplished skillfully, both respect to the narrative and the fine acting. Felicity Jones gives a poignant performance as Jane Wilde, who sticks staunchly by him upon the discovery of his illness and the heartbreakingly physical deterioration he begins to endure. The story chronicles their lives, even to the point where they drift apart and both develop other romantic interests. A key personal moment in the film occurs when Hawking breaks the news to his wife that he has asked the woman who has worked so closely with him on his medical and technical needs to accompany him to America from England.

We see Hawking as a vigorous, agile, athletic young man at university, watch as the early signs of his illness appear, and then see the shattering further descent. Although he was given only a short time to live, Hawking defied the odds and continued to be a towering scientific figure. His book “A Short History of Time” became a best-seller. Now 72, he cannot talk but communicates through a mechanism that produces a speaking voice, enabling him to continue his work.

The beauty of the film is that in recounting its part of the Hawking story, it can touch us emotionally but never dissolves into mere pity. Via Redmayne’s multi-faceted performance, we are able to admire the man for who he is, what he has overcome and what he has achieved, all the while looking at him in in deeply personal terms. Others with key roles include Charlie Cox, Emily Watson, Simon McBurney and David Thewlis. A Focus Features release. Posted September 30, 2014.

  

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