Movie Review: “The Theory of Everything” (James Marsh, UK 2014)

The bare facts of Stephen Hawking’s life are astounding. One of the smartest men who has ever lived is, during his early adulthood, stricken with an illness that will so debilitate his body as to render him incapable of expressing that mental ability and is expected to end his life within two years. He not only survives well beyond the two years but uses a combination of his own perseverance and technology to become one of the two most famous physicists of his time (Carl Sagan being the other) and a celebrity who inspires even the non-science-minded.

That astonishing and profoundly inspiring story seems ripe for film, and so of course Hollywood came calling long ago, producing the biographical A Brief History of Time (Errol Morris, UK/Japan/USA 1991) and a slew of science documentaries that use his background to interest the public in his science. However, James Marsh had a rather different concept for what as far as I can tell is the first non-documentary film about Hawking–his film is in fact based on the two autobiographies of Hawking’s first wife, Jane, instead of any of Hawking’s own work. As a result, it is a film that is largely focused on the relationship between those two people, with Hawking’s career serving as a plot point and part of the background for its love story but not as the film’s central plot. Continue reading