The Theory of Everything (2014)
Starring Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox (boyfriend), Harry Lloyd (Hawking's friend), David Thewlis (professor), and Emily Watson
Directed by James Marsh
Marsh doesn't hide the fact at any point in time that The Theory of Everything is a romance. We get beautiful shots of two people wooing each other, winning each other, and, however unfortunate, falling out with each other. Still, Marsh has crafted a film that in many ways epitomizes what I'd like a lasting romance to be for me. There's a connection between his two main characters that he manages to capture that's obvious from the very get-go that builds and blossoms as his film progresses.
Of course, there would be no romantic connection between characters if the two actors portraying said parts didn't exude some chemistry and Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones do just that. I'll admit that I came into this film thinking that it was going to be a showcase for the young Mr. Redmayne (and it was...more on that in a bit), but I found myself pleasantly won over by the lovely Ms. Jones as Mr. Hawking's paramour Jane. Jones has a very difficult part that I'll admit at first I believed was going to be one note. Playing the young college age Jane, she's seemingly just your average student who's fallen for some guy. However, as Stephen's disease begins to rear its ugly head and he gets progressively worse, the strength of character that someone like Jane needs to survive not only for herself but for her husband is overwhelmingly massive, and Ms. Jones exquisitely paints the picture of a woman with a huge weight on her shoulders. We see the struggle in her every expression and her love for Stephen in each gesture. Jane is not a cookie cutter person and we discover as the film progresses that she isn't perfect, either, but this well-rounded portrayal by Jones is one of the better female performances I've seen this year.
Of course, Eddie Redmayne rightfully deserves praise, too, in a fabulous portrayal of a man facing head-on a debilitating disease. There's a joy and vigor imbued into Redmayne's Stephen Hawking at the film's onset that it becomes all the more painful to watch as Stephen is forced to reconcile with the notion that he will become incapable of completing the simplest tasks on his own. Redmayne certainly captures the physicality -- both vocally and physically -- of an ALS patient, but he also captures the emotional pain that obviously must accompany such a horrible illness. We see the glimmers of joy in his eyes as he remembers his jubilant past or his love for Jane, but Redmayne also captures the devastation of this extremely intelligent man being relegated to having someone else have to feed and clothe him. This is an emotional performance -- perhaps the most emotional performance I've seen this year.
Granted, I think the film falters a bit in its final act -- I won't spoil things entirely, but the film asks us to infer a few things regarding possible speed bumps in Stephen and Jane's relationship and I think for a film that's been so honest with us throughout, this vagueness is a bit off-putting. Still, the flick is full of passion and that emotion is the key to The Theory of Everything working as well as it does. I've been waiting for a movie this year to hit me on that emotionally guttural level and The Theory of Everything does just that. You'd be forgiven if your eyes well up a time or two by what you're seeing onscreen with the magnificent combination of two great performances and fantastic direction.
The RyMickey Rating: B+