The Theory of Everything is the story of Stephen and Jane Hawking. It begins while the two are in college and details the ups and downs of the couple’s relationship. It is first and foremost a love story, but it is also a story of one of the greatest minds of the 20th century and how he and his wife dealt with a debilitating disease that left Stephen unable to walk, talk, or even feed himself. It is a story about love, science, faith, and the remarkable resilience of the human spirit.
The first half of the film focuses on Stephen and Jane’s budding romance while the two are in college. Their relationship is challenged when Stephen learns he has a disease that will end his life. The doctors inform him he only has two years to live and Stephen believes the best thing to do is distance himself from Jane. During this same period, Stephen proves he possesses a brilliance that his other classmates lack. With little study or preparation, Stephen solves problems that his peers wrestle with for hours. This first half of the film is intriguing. It draws you in and leaves you wanting more.
The second half of the film focuses on Stephen and Jane’s marriage, and Stephen’s blossoming career. It focuses on the struggles of living and caring for a person with a disability. It shows how two people who once deeply loved each other can grow apart. Stephen and Jane find new companions to confide in. Stephen continues to search for the one equation that will explain everything, while entertaining ideas of God. There are moments of joy, but it is primarily a time of struggle and searching.
The Theory of Everything is an intriguing and well acted biopic that ultimately leaves the viewer unsatisfied. Eddie Redmayne who plays Stephen Hawking gives a brilliant performance that is Oscar worthy. The direction and visuals are superb. The problem with the film lies in the story. It begins with big aspirations. It wrestles with deep questions, but does not offer any answers. It starts with a bang and then slowly fades away.
There is much to like about the film. Jane’s commitment to Stephen when many would have walked away is an amazing thing to behold. The film does a good job of showing how love is just as much about commitment and service as it is about emotion. The film also does an admirable job of giving the viewer insight into the life of someone with a disability. Our society has come a long way in recent years, but these individuals are still sometimes treated as second class citizens. At one point in the film, when Stephen and Jane are having a tense moment, Jane turns away and begins to cry. I thought to myself, “Why doesn’t he go over there and hug her?” I then realized he couldn’t do this even if he wanted to do it. The emotional struggles of people with disabilities is sometimes greater than the physical struggles.
The Theory of Everything is a film about faith. Both Stephen and Jane believe in something. Stephen believes in an equation that has not been discovered yet. Jane believes in God. Some of the best scenes in the film are in the first half when Stephen and Jane go toe to toe discussing what they believe in. Stephen is a genius, but Jane is able to hold her own. I was longing for more scenes like these. I wanted to see these two characters wrestle with deep ideas that they were both passionate about, but sadly these conversations never developed. Jane maintains her belief in God. She is moved when Stephen writes about the possibility of God in one of his books, but we do not learn much more about her faith. Stephen is asked about his faith at the end of the film. He says he believes in unlimited possibilities.
The Theory of Everything is not about science verses faith. It is about two people who have faith in very different things. One believes in an almighty God who created the Universe and everything in it. The other believes in an equation and unlimited possibilities. The film ends with a focus on unlimited possibilities. This is a nice sentiment that many will embrace. It is a challenge to the viewer to go out and be brilliant, and discover how far the human spirit will take you. I understand the appeal, but don’t hold it against me if I feel a little unsatisfied with this climax. Perhaps, a belief in something more than the human spirit and bigger than the Universe is not so irrational after all. It’s something to think about.
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