“Who knows?” That’s my theory of everything.
Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, apparently, is a bit more intellectually curious about identifying that one thing, that one mathematical formula, that explains everything.
In the vernacular of the DC and Marvel universes, critically acclaimed director James Marsh’s biopic, “The Theory of Everything,” is an origins film. Based on the memoir of Jane Wilde Hawking, Stephen’s wife of 25 years, it chronicles his early days as a doctoral candidate at Cambridge through the publication of his best-selling “A Brief History of Time.”
The relatively unknown actor Eddie Redmayne artfully adds dimension to Hawking, first as a brilliant but socially awkward love-struck student, then through his not-as-devastating-as-we-might-think ALS diagnosis, which he channels into a study of time, something early on he is told he has very little of. (The now 72-year-old Dr. Hawking was given just two years to live in 1963.)
Undermining the concept that any science is ever “settled,” Hawking makes his cosmologist bones explaining the universe’s creation but later sets out to disprove himself and the necessity of God. That he is anti-church is no secret. That he picks for a mate a woman who is a member of the Church of England makes for strange bedfellows. Together, they had three children.
“The Theory of Everything” is about everything but pity. Remarkably, no one treats Hawking differently, and there is little focus on platitudes like “overcoming adversity” or the “power of perseverance.” Hawking is matter of fact; patently pragmatic. Yet, in this telling, science merely orbits at the periphery of a nucleus that is the pair’s relationship.
A relationship that even Hawking can’t grasp let alone express mathematically. Especially this one, after he comes to realize Jane stands beside him through adversity compelled by her moral obligation. Agonizing that his dependency is holding her back, Hawking hires a professional caretaker to liberate her. What transpires is what would be called in academia a scalene love triangle.
There’s lots to like here, especially the moment his theory is (finally) fully-embraced by his peers and one of whom, a Russian professor, utters, “The little one has done it!”
Indeed, Redmayne delivers an award-caliber tortured performance against a backdrop whose nostalgic glow is reminiscent of “The King’s Speech.”