Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Theory of Everything Review

'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.'

In this heart-warming, intimate biopic, we follow the lives of Stephen Hawking and his first wife Jane Wilde. Starring Eddie Redmayne as Hawking and Felicity Jones as Wilde, this may seem like just another pretentious high-brow Oscar-bait film, but it accomplishes so much more. We follow the couple's lives together. Beginning in Cambridge in the early 1960's, their contrasting personalities and beliefs collide into a beautiful relationship that for a time, weathers the hardships of Hawking's degenerative motor neurone disease. Adapted from Wilde's autobiography, the film not only examines the challenges Hawking faced through the loss of his primary physical abilities but the strain his condition put on his relationship with Wilde, shedding light on hardships of another kind.

Redmayne delivers a truly visceral performance, becoming Hawking not only physically through imitation of mannerisms and posture, but in the way he embodies his stubborn determination, good humour and wit. Could this film see Redmayne winning awards this year? We can only hope, though Felicity Jones' performance as Jane Wilde must not be overlooked. Played with grace and modest charm, Jones brings Wilde to life with a believability that allows you to truly care about their relationship, with some of the most affective and poignantly underplayed scenes unfurling in the quiet moments shared between them. While the obstacles Hawking faces are more evident due to their physical nature, Jones manages to express Jane's inner turmoil in the most subtle of expressions and gestures.

The impressiveness of Hawking's numerous achievements and groundbreaking scientific theories is carefully juxtaposed with heartfelt drama and moving moments.The thematically exuberant cinematic narrative and script not only paints the ups and downs of a fulfilled life, but also provides a thoughtful reflection on life, in particular time. This is echoed beautifully in a montage at the end of the film depicting moments, both important and trivial from the course of the film in reverse as we 'wind back the clock' on Stephen's life.

As well as its emotional depth, the film manages to maintain a consistently beautiful, unique, and nostalgic aesthetic. Brought to life by Oscar-winning director James Marsh and cinematographer Benoît Delhomme, Theory of Everything is a rich display of colour and camera-work, brimming with beautiful shots and perspectives peppered with sunlight. The warm golden tones of the film really help bring out the beauty of the elegant and ornate landscape of Cambridge.

 Colder, bluey tones help capture an earthier, more realistic feel, while the grainy sepia hues infuse family moments with a sense that you're watching a home video. This contrast between a polished, established cinematic style and more experimental quirks adds to the charm of the film, enhancing the aesthetic without distracting from the core narrative.

With its unique visual identity, and its strong lead performances backed up by a stellar British cast, The Theory of Everything looks like an Oscar contender. It can't be ignored that much of the film's success hinges on it's performances. However, its strength also lies in its ability to use its grand intellectual scientific theories and equations as a backdrop for more cerebral, insightful human interactions. It just so happens that the main focus in a film about Stephen Hawking isn't his intelligence or his theories, but about him as a man and his relationships. The warmth and optimism at the heart of this film is what truly sets it apart from your average biopic, and is hopefully what it will truly be remembered for after the awards season buzz dies down.