The Theory of Everything is the story of the most brilliant and celebrated physicist of our time, Stephen Hawking, and Jane Wilde the arts student he fell in love with whilst studying at Cambridge in the 1960s. Little was expected from Stephen Hawking, a bright but shiftless student of cosmology, given just two years to live following the diagnosis of a fatal illness at 21 years of age. He became galvanized, however, by the love of Jane Wilde and went on to be called the successor to Einstein, as well as a husband and father to their three children. Over the course of their marriage as Stephen’s body collapsed and his academic renown soared, fault lines were exposed that tested the lineaments of their relationship and dramatically altered the course of both of their lives.
Well that was disappointing. This movie was a gigantic mess. I wasn’t expecting anything great from it, and thought it was just going to be a cute romantic movie about the bond between Hawking and Wilde. I thought I’d enjoy the powerful emotions at play in both of their lives – fear, regret, love, pain. Yet I got absolutely nothing out of this movie. To be clear, it wasn’t an awful movie, it was just very mediocre and not at all deserving of all the praise it received.
I knew the general story line of Hawking’s life going into the movie and left with no more knowledge than what a rudimentary Google search would have given me. Perhaps less even. But I was expecting that. However, the movie even glossed over all of Hawking’s scientific achievements and didn’t even give you a reason to care. They didn’t show the impact his discoveries had on the scientific world. They didn’t explain to you the implications of his work. They don’t even really make it what it clear what it is he’s working on besides his search for a theory that encompasses everything. So okay, the movie didn’t want focus on his achievements because everyone knows about them already and the science is hard to explain. I guess they decided to focus on his life rather than his work, which to me seems silly to separate, but okay. But if you’re focusing on Hawking as a person, then wouldn’t you want to showcase the incredibly inspiring story of how much a person can accomplish even with a severe disability?
The movie begins with Hawking entering his doctorate degree at Cambridge and shows how lazy and unmotivated he was prior to his diagnoses. Almost immediately Jane is introduced and before you know it time is jumping, scenes are montageing and life is flashing by. You don’t even really get to see their connection form. The entire movie is like that, constantly jumping around and fast-forwarding though Hawking’s life. A time-line would have been super helpful. When Hawking was diagnosed, he was given two years to live, yet while watching you have absolutely no way of knowing when those two years are up. You have no idea how long it is between important milestones or how long Jane and him are together. There are also many scenes that are poorly explained; the breakup scene is particularly impossible to understand.
None of the emotional scenes were as jarring as they could have been. When Hawking is diagnosed you don’t feel anything. And what about the scene were he tells Jane to leave him at the beginning? Nope. I never developed that intimate connection I seek in these types of movies. I kept having to remind myself to care. Redmayne’s physically transformation is extremely well done; he truly looks like he has ALS. Yet, is physical mimicry the highest level of acting? I think not. To play a complicated character, to draw empathy from an audience (or whatever emotion you’re going for), to allow the audience a glimpse into the characters mind – that is much more powerful. Jones’s acting was very weak and I didn’t care for her at all. The movie almost makes it seem like she stayed with Hawking because she was too stubborn to leave and only thought it would be for two years and then leaves him because she’s been having an affair. And it was supposed to be her story! Where’s her big emotional scenes? Where’s her story of what it’s like to be married to someone with ALS?
And it’s sad because this movie could have been something great. It could have showed the struggles of a great mind trapped in a failing body. It could have been about the insurmountable obstacles he overcame and is still overcoming to be a scientist and share his discoveries with the world. It could have showed Jane’s strength in staying with him and becoming a full time caretaker and the terrible burden it placed on her leading to their separation. It could have been an extraordinary love story. It could have highlighted what a gift every single day is. Some first person camera work would have been perfect so that a viewer could see the world through Hawking’s eyes.
Speaking about camera work, there was something seriously funky going on with the cinematography that seriously bothered me. So on top of everything else even the visuals weren’t anything exiting. Oh and the plot/script is just one long monotone.
Theory of Everything? More like Theory of Nothing.