The Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything

(M) Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones

“There should be no boundaries to human endeavour. We are all different. However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope.”  So said Stephen Hawking, the world-renowned physicist, cosmologist and author of A Brief History of Time. An influential man who contracted motor neurone disease (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) at 21. Despite being given two years to live, he has survived for many decades.

The Theory of Everything does a wonderful job of re-telling the relationship between Stephen and his wife, Jane. Reference is made to his impact upon the scientific world, but the primary focus throughout is the bearing that Stephen and Jane have had upon each other’s lives.

The drama travels through how they met, to the awareness of his eventual handicap and their lifetime battle for his life, career and family. With a central character who is restricted to a chair for the majority of the film, director James Marsh creatively capitalises on Jane and others who surround Stephen (across the six decades spanned by The Theory of Everything). Best known for documentaries Man On Wire and Project Nim, Marsh has made a captivating film. Its strength largely comes from the depth of the relational story, combined with the masterful performances by lead actors Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne (who won a Golden Globe, and is a favourite for Best Actor Oscar).

This might sound strange in the realm of biopics, but the Hawkings’ story is appealing when they are closest. When they pair looks outside of their relationship for comfort and solace, their gravitational appeal wains and the story loses footing. However, throughout the 60-year timeframe, Redmayne (Les Miserables) and Jones (The Invisible Woman) capture the attention and passion of the Hawking’s relationship with brilliant skills.

Marsh keeps things moving at a comfortable pace, which helps to show the love and challenges that have permeated the Hawkings’ marriage. Their story has the potential to be overly dramatic or, even worse, a boring narrative. But Marsh manages to tell believable and engaging. Some nuances and artistic license have been necessary to bring the story to the big screen, but none compromise the story or characters.

The most intriguing component of the film is not the science — but the philosophical and theological tracks it travels down. Stephen is a firm believer in science and is an outspoken atheist and socialist. He is brilliant within his field, but when entering into the theological, he is outside of his realm of expertise. The journey of his life portrayed on-screen continually comes back to the necessity to answer the “God” question. In his attempt to define and discuss time and how the universe was created, Stephen continually is confronted with the consideration of God and a creator. Jane is a Christian, and their differences in belief about something beyond this world, frequently sparks conversation and study.

It might be easy to dismiss these considerations as part of Hawking’s history, but the questions of sin, creation and God should be a consideration for anyone. The primary points of contention in the film came back to many of these universal questions that transcend time. The film is entertaining and educational, but do not be dismissive of the bigger questions that this film brings to light.

A film about science should challenge the brain, but who would have thought it would challenge the theological considerations of this world? The Theory of Everything is a good film, that will cause you to think more about life and God.

What are the bigger questions to consider from this film?

  1. How did the world come into existence? (Genesis 1-2, Psalm 33:9, John 1:3)
  2. Does God exist? (Psalm 19:1, Romans 1:20)
  3. How can you define sin? (Deuteronomy 9:7, Joshua 1:18)

Russell Matthews works for City Bible Forum Sydney and is a film blogger

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