Directed by James Marsh
Written by Anthony McCarten
Having never read Stephen Hawking’s seminal A Brief History of Time, I cannot, in good conscience, sit here and ponder those celestial bodies and scientific enormities for which Hawking’s life’s work has concentrated in any sort of academic manner. I can, however, boldly explore their more sentimental and emotional aspects, as James Marsh and his team have set out to accomplish in this film. The answer to all things has been sought by humans across all times, emblazoned in the conscious of many through religion, media, and science. This curiosity for the beginning of all things, the middle of all things, and the end of all things is the most basic and natural curiosity of humans that fuels all other curiosities.
Who is that person? Where does she come from? What does she do? Does she like me? What is her favorite color? What makes her laugh? Smile? What makes her mad? Upset? Romantic curiosity drives most of us wild, and the answer to these questions always seems just at arm’s reach. Some are less attainable than others, depending on the subject. In this case, our subject is Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne), or rather it is Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones), budding lovers in the 1960s at Cambridge. One is studying for a Ph.D. in physics, the other in medieval poetry of the Iberian peninsula. So what brings them together?
The film, and history itself, may tell us that a party brought them together, that this party was the beginning of their history. A definite start. But no, that’s not quite right, but when did they fall in love, when did the love start? Now, you see, that is quite different from when did they meet, or first see each other. When were they first aware of the other’s existence? Instead I asked the question when did they fall in love? Conversely I can ask the question when did they fall out of love? A simple question with a fairly complex answer, I’m sure. Which brings me back to our beginning, or rather this review’s beginning. So what is the “Theory of Everything”? When did the world start? Time? Life? Love?
What I love so much about James Marsh’s film is its ability to intertwine the two subjects, science and sentiment, Stephen and Jane, and marry them in such a way that one is a reflection of the other. As Stephen forms his theory of a definite beginning, the romance of the two sees a definite start. But as that theory evolves, as more information is collected for analysis, Hawking changes his theory, saying that perhaps there is no definite beginning or end of time. So too, their relationship begins evolving, theories change as more information is collected for analysis. All the while Hawking’s medical condition worsens.
The end product is a film that swirls together, much like the galaxies appear far away in the sky, a tale of science and of heart. Two ideas so distinctly separate, yet impossibly linked. Fluidity is seen throughout as evolution is prevalent, the condition of Stephen, his theory of time, Jane’s unwavering love for Stephen. Perhaps her love truly is infinite, never having a beginning, and never truly ending. Redmayne and Jones are magnificent, the cinematography astounding. The ideas explored, or rather how they are explored, make for a magical journey, viewing love’s greatest secrets through the mind of one of science’s greatest minds, and the great heart behind him.