A look at the relationship between the famous physicist Stephen Hawking and his wife.
Running Time: 2hrs 3min
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Time’s a singular friend in “The Theory of Everything”
**** (out of 4 stars)
First, let’s get this sensual observation out of the way. There are few mouths more astonishing than those of fast-rising British actors Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones. It’s a fact that should serve a love story well.
And though “The Theory of Everything” tussles with quantum physics and Einstein’s theory of relativity, it is simultaneously an inspired and stirring romance.
The two portray theoretical astrophysicist Stephen Hawking and mate Jane Hawking, née Wilde, who meet at Cambridge University in 1963. She is studying art. He is a grad student in cosmology. They meet more sweet than cute at a college mixer; their courtship charms.
Director James Marsh and screenwriter Anthony McCarten take their lead for this film from Jane Hawking’s 2007 memoir “Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen.”
In the midst of the amazing — big ideas! deep love! — the devastating happens. Hawking begins to struggle with routine movement. A fall had someone in a preview screening gasp. It is rending. Hawking is diagnosed with motor neuron disease. MND is often referred to as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Dramatic illness has caused many a decent spouse to waver, yes, even flee. But Jane digs in when Hawking is suffering from the news, when he is sending friends away. They wed. They have a life together even as his condition worsens.
“The Theory of Everything” charts the trajectory of a long-term relationship even as it tracks Hawking’s shattering theoretical successes. Wrinkles in the relationship happen.
Jane meets choirmaster Jonathan Hellyer Jones in the ’70s. Charlie Cox plays the sympathetic widower who gently enters Jane’s life, but also that of the Hawking family. Stephen begins leaning on a nurse. Maxine Peake does an appealing job as caretaker Elaine Mason.
In fact, the cast is expert. David Thewlis portrays Dennis Sciama, Hawking’s doctoral adviser, champion, admirer. Emily Watson is Jane’s mother.
A montage near the film’s end captures the profound physical transformation Redmayne embodies over the course of the film. (He’ll be an Oscar nom.)
It also stands as a tear-courting visualization of Hawking’s and our precious quandary: time.
It seems November is becoming science month on the big screen. Take advantage of it. Time spent in a multiplex seeing this masterful drama, Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece “Interstellar, even “Big Hero 6″ — can be as thought-provoking as it is moving. (Our tutorial continues with more melancholy next month, with the opening of “The Imitation Game” about mathematician and WWII code- breaker Alan Turing.)
Meanwhile, “The Theory of Everything” offers a compassionate consideration of mind-body tensions. (And, yes, God figures into the mix in ways amusing and respectful.)
At 21, Hawking was given two years to live. More than five decades later, he has defied the gravity of that diagnosis and taken us beyond our wildest imaginings. That is a thing of wonder — scientific and beyond.