2014. Rated PG-13, 123 minutes.
The whole of Hawking's life is uplifting simply for the fact that he's still alive. As it is noted in the movie, his life expectancy from the time he was diagnosed with ALS was about two years. Fifty years later, he's still around. There is a fantastic story to be told. Unfortunately, this movie does not tell it. It prunes nearly everything to its driest state making it a tedious and repetitive succession of events that fails to move the viewer. Early on, as things are being set up, this isn't so bad. Shortly after Hawking is diagnosed, we get the most powerful scene of the movie. Understandably distraught, he withdraws from the world. He and Jane had just started to become serious when this happens. She shows up in his dorm room and shames him out of his self-imposed exile. This demonstrates Jane's strength and immediately establishes the lengths to which she'll go for her man. Unfortunately, the rest of the film is spent reducing their relationship to that of caretaker and genius rather than man and wife. This is a very odd tactic for a couple reasons. We'll get to the second one, later. The first is that it gradually removes emotion from the equation. What started as the fiery courtship of two people who truly fancy one another quickly becomes a dispassionate working relationship. It would be easy to say Redmayne and Jones don't have enough chemistry to pull off what they were going for, but that would be unfair. Both give wonderful performances throughout the film and show early on that there is enough of a spark between them to light up the screen. The film itself refuses to let them show it. We're left with two people who co-exist rather than share themselves with one another.
The lack of anything truly moving stems from the film's insistence on hitting the big moments of Hawking's life. The little things, the things that would make him a real human being are either skimmed over or ignored. Let's come back to his diagnosis with ALS. There is that short while where he mopes around his room, which is great. However, once Jane drags him out of his self-pity party, and finds out what lies ahead for her should she continue with this relationship, any hurdles they face are conquered within seconds. Often, this happens before we even have time to process how the problem might impact the couple. There are also seems to be no learning curve at any point throughout the journey that is a life neither of them were prepared for. Jane is instantly the best nurse ever with never a doubt of her ability to handle it nor her decision to go down this road in the first place. The only inkling we have that she has any frustrations at all in an extra-marital affair she has with Jonathan (Cox), a guy she meets at church who befriends both her and Stephen. We can surmise it happens because she has a sense of loneliness since Stephen can only reciprocate so much. However, it's not something made explicit. After all, Stephen is a perfect patient. And they keep having kids, so something's happening. What's missed in all this are the hard times at home just doing the routine things other couples take for granted. What is it like for Stephen to dress, eat, drink, or make love? What is it like for him to interact with his children? We almost never see this. In fact, they only occasionally show up as props, not characters. What is it like for him to actually do any of the research that led to the theories he became world renowned for? In lieu of learning any of this, we get seemingly random advancements in his care just popping up from time to time presented by people we don't know. These advancements, by the way, also mark the passing of time for us. These people disappear as quickly as they showed up. The next time we see the kids they're older and Stephen is either telling us his latest theory or being honored by someone. It's all very cold.
Another issue with The Theory of Everything is one lots of biopics run into. It deifies its subject. Stephen can truly do no wrong. Even in a film based on real people, however, someone must. In an effort to establish some sort of villain, the film will occasionally place Jane in that role. She's taken to task before she's even done anything. People are all over her when they merely suspect she's having an affair even though she's not. The movie also clearly wants us to feel that she is wrong beyond a shadow of a doubt. Since Stephen's condition simultaneously takes a turn for the worse the moment she actually does do something and her reaction is to immediately break things off, it comes across like a cosmic warning to her. Later, when Stephen rather callously informs Jane that he's leaving her for woman hired to help them out, we're to make nothing of it. It's almost like he just says "Ya know, kid, we had a good run, but it is what it is." He then shows up years later and takes her to a swanky event and all is forgiven. This finally brings me to the second reason the depiction of Stephen's and Jane's relationship is strange. The movie is based on the memoirs of the real-life Jane Wilde Hawking. How could a movie based on a book written by Jane fail her so spectacularly as a person? How could it be so lacking in any of the details that would really make us feel something as we watched it unfold? In place of a representation of what it must have been like to live with and care for Stephen Hawking we get a sanitized fluff piece.