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'The Theory Of Everything' Reviewed

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Maths And Movies

The Theory of Everything, despite his enticing title, is not about physics and complex theories you cannot understand, it rather focuses on the relationship between rockstar theoretical physicist-cosmologist Stephen Hawking and his wife Jane Wilde, and very understandably because it is an adaptation of her own book, published in the UK as ‘Music to Move the Stars’ and then reissued as ‘Traveling to Infinity’.

Can we expect the complete truth from a Hollywood movie? Of course not, and according to what I have read online, the movie takes some liberty with the book, but the backbone of the story is real, Jane married Stephen when he was 22 and just diagnosed with a motor neuron disease (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), knowing he had a two-year life expectancy. If there is a great woman behind every great man, Jane Wilde-Hawking is more than a great woman, she is a saint! She becomes the woman who gives up her career to take care of her invalid man and the pillar that carries the movie, a woman who believes in love and devotes her life to it. When Hollywood comes up with a scenario like this one, I despise it, but we are talking about the life of the great Stephen Hawking, who at 72, still defies medicine (he is still alive!) and God, still trying to understand the beginning of the universe, pursuing his quest for the single equation that will unify Quantum Mechanics and Einstein’s General Relativity: ‘There should be no boundaries to human endeavor’ he said at the end of the movie with his computerized voice, Hawking’s actual electronic voice that he offered to lend to the movie.

The movie is the greatest love story ever told between two beings, who were not necessarily destined for each other. When they met in Cambridge in 1963, she is in the arts, he is in science, she goes to church and he is an atheist, ‘I have a slight problem with the celestial dictatorship premise’, he tells her. But the biggest obstacle has to be his terrible disease, which diminishes him little by little, attacks every part of his body, reduces him to a frail and deformed man in a wheelchair, with an intact and exceptional brain.

I should say that the performance of the actors is exceptional, Eddie Redmayne embodies nerdy young Stephen Hawking whose body slowing declines, face slowly contorts and speech becomes blurry, while Felicity Jones plays a moving Jane Wilde/Hawking, facing her life with an unbelievable strength and continuing her endless fight against her husband’s disease while rising three children! How this woman still managed to write a PhD thesis, is beyond my comprehension… I know, it was hard to keep a dry eye, and if I hate crying at movies, this time it sounded all right

I was a bit afraid they would turn it into this perfect love story, but the Hawkings appear as complex as real life can be, especially when church choir director Jonathan Hellyer Jones became involved with the family, and very close to Stephen and Jane… to the point that Stephen’s mother asks Jane if Jonathan is the father of her third kid… He wasn’t, but whatever put a strain on their marriage, Stephen’s disease, Jane’s closeness to Jonathan, the pretty nurse becoming more and more present after Stephen’s tracheotomy, or even his growing fame, Stephen left his wife for the nurse (although it is not clearly said in the movie) and Jane remarried the church choir director… I am sure nothing really happened as it is depicted in the movie, especially the tearful break up scene is simply too perfect!

I have to say that the movie doesn’t give us many clues to understand Hawking’s work or even his ascension to fame, and I certainly would have wanted a bit more of science. If the movie is clear about Hawking’s atheism – and we don’t see much of this in Hollywood, a hero declaring publicly he doesn’t believe in God –  we don’t get the chance to explore how science led Hawking to atheism. But it’s not a science movie, it’s not even a philosophical movie, It’s Jane’s story and it’s a very uplifting one, a story about love, courage and hope, the story of a stubborn couple going against all odds, building a family in spite of everything. ‘We’re just a normal family’, says delusional Stephen during a family trip, ‘We’re not a normal family,’ replies Jane.

The cinematography is superb, and I guess the actors will be nominated during the award season. The couple meets at a party during ‘Heatwave’ by Martha & the Vandellas, but that’s about the only pop song you will hear during the movie but the score, by composer Johann Johannsson, is totally emotional, beautifully orchestrated and matching the dramatic scenes.

The movie will certainly recall ’A beautiful mind’, the life a genius mathematician John Nash whose mind sinks in paranoid schizophrenia, but survives because of the love of his wife, and it almost ends with Hawking’s electronic voice saying: ’However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope.’ And this may well be the real theory of everything.

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