I usually don’t get behind the anecdote “behind every great man, there’s a woman”, but for this film, the saying runs true.
Here’s a brief plotline:
In the 1960s, Cambridge University student and future physicist Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) falls in love with fellow collegian Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones). At 21, Hawking learns that he has motor neuron disease. Despite this – and with Jane at his side – he begins an ambitious study of time. He and Jane defy terrible odds and break new ground in the fields of medicine and science, achieving more than either could hope to imagine.
Now, rather than playing out as your average biopic, The Theory of Everything is, at it’s core, a true love story. Directed by James Marsh and based upon Jane Wilde-Hawking’s own Travelling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen, the story feels very intimate as it shows the truest flaws of these two characters, beautifully played by Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones.
The film begins in 1963, a positively lovely era for on it’s own, on the night that the two meet. There is a truly magical feel to these first few scenes, and others littered throughout, when their romance is blooming. The colour palette and cinematography seem other-worldly mixed with Jóhann Jóhannsson’s beautiful score. It’s extremely intimate, and we are brought back to this feeling of intimacy only a few times throughout the film’s progression, becoming fewer and further every time. Surrounding these scenes are what can only be described as harsh reality. Stephen’s study, diagnosis and daily life are not padded with the soft colours, but rather with very British greys and browns. But the colour comes back not only during the intimate moments shared within the Hawking family, but also when Stephen makes his discoveries about time and space. It’s almost as if the discoveries and realisations are prompted by this feeling shared between Hawking and the audience.
I really have to stress how much I loved these characters, especially Jane. The fact that this film is set mostly from Jane’s perspective is probably what makes it so intimate and thus successful. She puts her own intellectual endeavours on hold for the man that she loves, or at least has to love. And further into the film, she is so alone.
What I am trying to say is, this film could easily have been so one-sided. Nobody will ever question (nor should they) that Stephen Hawking is one of the greatest, most impressive men the world has seen. But if it weren’t for Jane, it seems as though he would not have found the found the ability to have come so far. To discover that there should be no boundary to the human endeavour.
The film ends with a montage, bringing us backwards through the story we have just been told, pausing during the most intimate moments that brought us to the film’s conclusion. This sequence genuinely brought me to tears. Even without knowing the story, it is a really lovely piece of cinema. It shows us, the audience that in all of the universe, these two people came together and created legacies through their love. One: their family. The other: discoveries about the galaxy that turn our own existence as humankind into nothing more inconspicuous than specks of dust.
And all of this brought on by love.