Physicist Stephen Hawking and his former wife Jane Wilde, a student he fell in love with while he was studying at college and training to become one of the world's top physicists, had a complex relationship. When the two first met, Hawking had yet to be diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and was completely healthy. And yet, he was still a handful, often showing up late for class and keeping an erratic schedule.
While he didn't get particularly good grades, Hawking's tests were off the charts and he essentially talked his way into England's top college. While he initially struggled, he would eventually excel and become one of the most brilliant minds the university has ever produced. All this is chronicled in The Theory of Everything, a new biopic that features an incredible, physically demanding performance by Eddie Redmayne, who's deserving of an Oscar nod for the way he portrays Hawking both when he is healthy and when he is struggling with ALS. The movie is now showing areawide.
Based on Jane Wilde Hawking's memoir Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, the film comes at Hawking's story via his ex-wife's perspective. As a result, director James Marsh (Man on Wire) puts the emphasis on the romantic drama. That part of the film isn't really that compelling. While Felicity Jones puts in a terrific performance as Jane, the quest for scientific discovery is actually more dramatic. And that's not to take anything away from the twist that arrives at the film's end. (If you know the story of the Hawkings' eventual separation, which has been well documented, it won't come as a surprise to know that the marriage doesn't last.)
Marsh successfully derives suspense from Hawking's quest for one unified theory that would answer questions about the universe's inception. His search involves crunching some serious numbers, and we see his frustration with trying to fathom some mind-blowing stuff. The film alternates between focusing on Hawking's scientific endeavors and his difficulty in maintaining a stable relationship and devote time to his wife and kids as he's writing books and giving lectures. The science is the good stuff here: Marsh could have dwelt even more on the nature of Hawking's endeavors and the film wouldn't have suffered for it.