3.5 stars
Being married to last century's second biggest brain was never going to be easy for a church-going student of medieval poetry. But once Jane Hawking's husband is confined to a wheelchair and a tracheotomy leaves him incapable of speech, the pressure becomes almost unbearable.
This is the well known backstory against which James Marsh's romantic drama unfolds. Adapted from Jane's memoir – Travelling to Infinity: My Life with StephenThe Theory of Everything charts their relationship from first contact to final farewell, and all that lay between.

Much has been made of the riveting performance by Eddie Redmayne (My Week With Marilyn) and it is, unquestionably, outstanding. He embodies Hawking, from the slightly awkward student at Cambridge through his diagnosis (two years to live) to the stoic theoretician we recognise fifty years later. The key is Redmayne's ability to reveal the man behind the celebraty without sentimentality, nor does he invite pity. More than that, he captures the man's innate charm and acute sense of humour, even when reduced to performing with nothing more than a raised eyebrow or quivering lip. It is sensational and should have him mounting the podium come Oscar night.

Redmayne's co-star Felicity Jones also shows why she's one of the finest actors working today. Her capacity to find a balance that offsets a naturally compelling presence with something harder, more brittle resonates perfectly with her character. It was central to her turn in The Invisible Woman and plays effortlessly here, particularly when Jane's eye is caught by the local vicar Jonathan (Charlie Cox – Stardust). Frustration, complications and enduring love are all wrapped up in one messy, convincing package.

Yet for all the film's plaudits (five Oscar nominations in total), the boom-and-bust of the Hawking's romance never quite takes off the way it should. There's a sense that Marsh resists taking the story to obvious places, perhaps wisely, but in doing so, fails to take it anywhere all that interesting: couple fall in love, get married, fall out love, get remarried. The truly fascinating details – Hawking's stunning mind, his world-changing theories, how he copes with his crippling disease, what drives him, what drives Jane and, in the end, what drove them apart – these are moments that rest stubbornly around the films edges. It leaves you hoping Marsh will discard the British stoic and wallow in some loud, angsty American hysteria. But this is not that film.

Instead, The Theory of Everything is a loose but pleasing romantic drama centred around one of the finest performances you will ever see. It sheds some light on the inspiring life of Stephen Hawking, while making you want to re-read A Brief History of Time in the hope that maybe this time you'll understand it. It also has one powerful lump-to-the-throat moment quickly followed by the film's funniest scene when Hawking's translator first speaks for him in that iconic voice. “But,” sniffs Jane, “he sounds, American...” Priceless!


Previewed at Dendy Opera Quays, Sydney, on 28 January 2015

Eddie Redmayne
Felicity Jones
David Thewliss
Charlie Cox

James Marsh

Anthony McCarten



123 minutes

January 29, 2015
The Theory of Everything (2014) on IMDb