The Theory of Everything traces the life of physicist, Stephen. J. Hawking, from shortly before his diagnosis with motor neurone disease to more than 30 years after. The movie focuses on the relationship with Jane, his first wife, from the time they met, through the joys of their marriage, the birth of their children and the difficulties they encounter as Hawking's disease progresses.
Theatrical release poster (courtesy of Wikipedia)
This was an enjoyable movie with a great cast starring Eddie Redmayne as Hawking, Felicity Jones as his first wife, Jane, as well as Charlie Cox, Emily Watson, Simon McBurney, Christian McKay and David Thewlis in supporting roles. Once I got past seeing David Thewlis, the actor who played Remus Lupin in the Harry Potter movies, as a professor of Cosmology at Cambridge I settled in for the ride. The film shows the fun and playful side of Hawking's character as well his extraordinary achievements in physics and his personal achievement of defying the two year life span doctors gave him when he was diagnosed with motor neuron disease.
Eddie Redmayne in 2011 (image courtesy of Wikipedia)
The real focus of the movie is on the relationship between Hawking and his first wife, Jane, particularly looking at the effect on their relationship as the enormous challenges of caring for someone with this illness become a reality. The movie is very sympathetic to all characters and does not make judgement even as the marriage breaks up. It certainly makes you think about the meaning of commitment in a relationship.
Felicity Jones (image courtesy of Wikipedia )
However, there is very little detail in comparison about Hawking's work or its significance although several scenes show him delivering lectures on the subject, the publishing of his book, A Brief History of Time, and his subsequent theories. One of the main questions posed about his work is whether his theories of the time support the existence or not of God as his wife is a devout Christian and the issue is identified as a source of some mild tension between them. This focus on the relationship is probably not surprising as the movie is based on the memoir, Travelling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen by his first wife, Jane Wilde Hawking.
The focus on relationships over other activities is a real Hollywood trend but it is probably difficult to really explain Hawking's complex theories within the format of a popular movie. Having attempted to read his groundbreaking book, A Brief History of Time, I found that each page needed to be unpacked and pondered over and I still couldn't claim to fully understand it. However I would have enjoyed a larger emphasis on the impact of his work.
So I came out of the movie much enlightened about Hawking's private life and how the progression of his disease affected his career and his family but less so about his work. Nonetheless it's an inspiring story and as a study of relationships and adversity it's hard to beat.