This is going to be a really short review, and I’m afraid I’m going to be shortchanging this film quite a bit. It’s not a bad film, I want to say that at the outset. I’m just really not into this genre. I’m so sick of biopics, added to that the fact that this is the second of two films that are super similar (the other being The Imitation Game), and how I didn’t even really want to see this in the first place, and it’s going to be really hard to give this a favorable review, despite the fact that it is pretty good.
Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) is a student at Cambridge when he is stricken with motor neuron disease. His girlfriend Jane (Felicity Jones) decides to marry him anyway, even though his life expectancy is only two years. Against all odds, he turns in his thesis and becomes a doctor, coming up with a groundbreaking theory of black holes at the same time. The rest of the film follows Stephen and Jane’s contentious relationship because of his disease, and Stephen’s continued attempts to find the titular theory of everything.
The film is very well directed, acted, and written, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is achingly unoriginal. The biopic as a genre has been considerably shaken up in the past year, with Selma doing the Lincoln thing and focusing on a short, specific period of time rather than a whole life, and even further diversifying the genre by focusing on the community as a whole, while still keeping its subject at the center. The Imitation Game, another British genius movie, mixes things up a bit by feeling more like a war time thriller for the greater part of the film. The Theory of Everything tries to focus on the relationship instead of only Stephen, making Jane just as an important character, similar to Hitchcock, but sadly that’s not enough innovation to hold my attention.
This film is very understated, something that I appreciated. It kind of reminded me of Brief Encounter, an early David Lean film that really annoyed me but did offer a reasonable look at human nature. This film is similar in that the characters consider each other before acting, they aren’t making big and grand gestures that are incredibly unrealistic. It’s nice to see people acting like reasonable adults once and a while, and there are many touching moments between Stephen and Jane throughout the film.
As I mentioned, the direction and the performances are really good here. Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones are both nominated for their performances here, and deservedly so even if I’m not a fan of this movie. Redmayne obviously has a lot of physical hurdles to overcome, and does so in a completely natural way. Felicity Jones is able to convey a lot through her facial expressions, as she is reacting to what is happening without voicing her opinions on the situations. James Marsh offers up several compelling framings throughout the film showing the characters’ isolation, all the while maintaining a mild and calm color scheme of pale yellow and blue. He also uses a continues motif of circles throughout, relating to Hawking’s scientific work. He may use montages once too many, but at least that gets us through the story a bit quicker.
I’m a little bit sad I didn’t like this movie more. It was the last one I had to watch out of the BP nominations, and I always get a little bit antsy at the end of going through all these award movies. This is one of my less favorite out of the bunch, just because it didn’t involve me at all. It is a pretty good movie though, similar to Boyhood it’s a movie I know I should like, but just can’t for some reason. The reason here is that even though everything is done well, it’s not anything new. I don’t mean to diminish the struggles that serve the basis for this film, which I’m sure were considerable, but rather the multitude of like movies we get about struggles of this sort which diminish the good ones.
“There should be no boundaries to human endeavor. We are all different. However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope.”
Long story short: 3/4 stars