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Eddie Redmayne who plays the renowned physicist, becomes the part so completely that it is hard to recall what the real Steven Hawking looks like.
Eddie Redmayne who plays the renowned physicist, becomes the part so completely that it is hard to recall what the real Steven Hawking looks like.

Film Review: The Theory of Everything

A charming retelling of the love story of Stephen and Jane Hawking

In the opening scene, two young men are seen cycling through the streets of Cambridge, UK. It is 1963 and a nerdy postgraduate is embarking on his PhD at Cambridge University. Somewhat physically awkward, with clumsy social skills, Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) makes an early connection with Jane (Felicity Jones), a foreign languages student. When she asks him to describe what he means by saying he is a cosmologist, Hawking replies, “Cosmology is a religion for atheists." Their love story has hardly taken root when Hawking is diagnosed with a life-threatening and rare illness. The doctors estimate that with motor neuron disease, 21-year-old Hawking has just two years to live.

Jane is undeterred. The couple marries and she sets aside her own ambitions to nurture and care for Hawking and their children. Against all odds, the couple raise three children and remain married for 30 years during which time Hawking completes his seminal research on black holes and writes his best-selling A Brief History Of Time. During these years, Hawking’s physical degeneration continues till the time he is confined to a wheelchair with negligible movement.

Redmayne, a deserving winner of the Golden Globe for his transformation into Hawking, becomes the part so completely that it is hard to recall what the real Hawking looks like. Redmayne’s body language, his physical appearance as he shrinks over time, contorting into the customized wheelchair, is poignant. The chair comes with an attached computer system via which Hawking communicates following a tracheotomy. This tinny voice with an American accent has become the British academic’s identity.

Based on a book by Jane Hawking, Travelling To Infinity: My Life With Stephen, James Marsh directs a brief life story of the physicist. While a chunk of the film does lean in favour of the selfless, sacrificing wife, Marsh restores balance with indications of her frustration, infidelity and their eventual separation. Jones conveys all these with admirable control.

For the most part, this is a reverential, even-keeled and consciously inspiring story about determination, perseverance and a never-say-die spirit encapsulated in Hawking’s words: “However bad life may seem… Where this is life there is hope."

The Theory Of Everything released in theatres on Friday.

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