Period film: The Theory of Everything

Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones) is a student at Cambridge in the 1960s, studying literature.

One day, at a party, she meets Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) – a student of science with a world view completely different from her own. Jane and Stephen fall into an hours-long conversation, and leave the party with a new-found affection for one another.

Their relationship grows, and they fall in love. When Stephen is diagnosed with motor neuron disease, the relationship nearly comes to an end. But Jane and Stephen persevere, marrying and experiencing the ups and downs of wedded life as Stephen’s career takes off.

(Image via ramascreen.com)

(Image via ramascreen.com)

The Theory of Everything (2014) was directed by James Marsh. The film is based on Jane Wilde Hawking’s memoir, Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen.

I knew very little about Stephen Hawking’s personal life prior to watching this film, which made the story very interesting to me, and easy to get wrapped up in. The dynamics of his relationship with Jane and how they change over time are fascinating. Both of them are strong but flawed people, and the viewer gets a great sense of how their relationship evolved over time with the pressures of Stephen’s illness, as well as the pressures of his growing fame.

The performances are a great benefit to the film, conveying this story with plenty of emotion and sincerity. Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne could not have been more perfectly cast. They’re great as a pair, and individually. They fully embody their characters, and do a great job of portraying all of the stages and dimensions of their relationship, from the charming early stages of romance to the revelation of Stephen’s illness and the eventual breakdown of their marriage.

The Theory of Everything also boasts fabulous cinematography and lots of attention to detail in its set and costume design. Everything feels very authentic to each decade covered by the story, and the transitions of time are carried out smoothly. (For example, Jane’s fashions change gradually rather than shifting hastily from early ’60s tea dresses to stereotypically ’70s peasant dresses.)

My only complaint, visually, is that the aging make-up could have been done better. It’s very subtle and their faces look natural, which is good, but I felt like the actors weren’t aged quite enough considering the huge span of time covered by the film.

The Theory of Everything works as a period film, as a biopic and as a romantic drama. I wouldn’t count this among my top five new-to-me discoveries overall 2014, but it’s certainly close — one of the year’s strongest new release discoveries.

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