The life of a genius.


The Theory of Everything is another one of those films that could be considered Oscar bait, and maybe it is. It seems to me that every biopic is going to be baiting an award of some sort (or at least that is how it seems). Eddie Redmayne took home the Oscar that year for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking.

I’m going to go ahead and not worry about spoilers in this review. We should all know who Hawking is and the highpoints of his life.

The story is less focused on Hawking’s contributions to the scientific world, but instead examines his role as a father, husband, and friend. Felicity Jones does an excellent job as Jane Hawking, the woman who stuck by Stephen’s side in the face of Lou Gehrig’s disease. Her sacrifice is a large focus of the film. Love can conquer a lot, but there are some things that these lofty ideas can’t fully cope with.

The brutality and heartbreak of a terminal illness is in full view within the narrative. The impending and consistent tragedy of a life altered are in almost every scene. The love between Jane and Stephen is powerful, but also deeply tragic. The film humanizes Stephen in ways that are probably necessary due to his genius-celebrity status. It also allows us to see the ins and outs of life. Not only for someone with a terminal illness, but the ups and downs of pursuing dreams, love, and finding a place to make it all fit together.

Overall, the film is very well done. Both Jones and Redmayne deserve the praise they received for their efforts. I enjoyed it, but the genre of biopic has always sat a little odd with me. Who is this film for? It appears the film is quite accurate, but do we want accuracy or a romanticized view of our heroes? I think that question is a bit harder to answer than a simple yes or no. We see our heroes as larger than life, but these films constantly remind us of the frailty of them. What do we do with this information? Particularly with Stephen, who is physically frail, but mentally one of the most impressive individuals in history.

Further, and this might sound odd, but I find it strange to watch a biopic of someone who is still alive. I would rather read Jane’s book, or hear from her or Stephen directly instead of seeing an adaptation. Why ignore the source? Also, if we are going to create a film around the man’s life, I would have liked to have seen more of his theories presented within the film. I recognize that this is not the point the movie was making, but I believe this was a slightly missed opportunity.

As with most biopics, The Theory of Everything gives you some insights into an important life. You will probably give the predicted emotional response when the film wants you to. We will all feel badly for individuals with diseases, and then we will go on with our days. These films allow us to feel sad for a while and then leave the room. Perhaps we should be inspired to pursue our dreams? I am not certain that is the case. Look at this great person, and leave the room.

As noted above, the film is good, and is worth watching. If you are anything like me, there might be a bad aftertaste that is due to the genre, not because of this specific film alone. 8/10.

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