However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.” – Stephen Hawking
The now award-winning movie The Theory of Everything tells the inspirational story of physicist Stephen Hawking and his first wife Jane.
It’s the 1960’s and Cambridge student and future physicist Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) falls in love with fellow student Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones). He’s a hunched, jaunty doctoral student; she’s a sprightly young thing preparing for a PhD in medieval poetry.
Hawking’s life takes a significant turn when at 21 he finds out that he has Motor Neuron Disease. Despite this – and with Jane at his side – he begins an ambitious study of time, despite being given just two years to live.
But for the next 30 years until their divorce in 1995, he and Jane defy terrible odds and break new ground in the fields of science and medicine, achieving more than either could hope to imagine.
We’re all familiar with Hawking’s story; his ground-breaking work ‘A Brief History of Time’ and the devastating disabilities that irrevocably propelled him into the public consciousness and immortal fame. However few of us could come close to understanding the complexities of his personal life, including his shocking divorce in 1990 from his long sacrificing wife of more than 25 years.
It’s hard to imagine how anyone so devoted to their partner could leave them just at the long-awaited moment when international fame and recognition came knocking. But what we are shown goes some way to explaining the circumstances that led to their separation.
This wonderful production, so well scripted and paced throughout, serves to explain that vital anomaly in Hawking’s life. It’s made all the more poignant as Anthony McCarten’s script was adapted from Jane’s memoir ‘Travelling to Infinity’. The result is a movie with undeniable restraint, tact and tastefulness.
Akin to The Imitation Game, this is a story of an intellectual giant who despite having serious physical and psychological hurdles to overcome, managed to achieve unimaginable things.
Director James Marsh has outdone himself in telling the extraordinary story of Stephen and Jane Hawking. Redmayne’s performance as Hawking is breath-taking. It is difficult enough to mimic such a famous person but to portray the debilitating and gradually increasing effects of Motor Neuron Disease to such a degree takes real skill.
The most harrowing scene bound me speechless, as Hawking inched his agonised way up the stairs to where his baby son Robert looks on from above, unknowingly witnessing his father’s regression to sub-toddler mobility.
Redmayne shows us the profound emotions and inner suffering that Hawking must have experienced in his agonizing journey. His performance left me speechless and at times in uncontrollable tears. Whilst watching this beautiful work of art I realised that a star was emerging right in front of my eyes.
By Ruth Walker