Any film presenting the physical demise of one of the towering intellectual heavyweights of the age runs the risk of re-hashing tired underdog clichés. Luckily, in the hands of screenwriter Anthony McCarten and director James March, The Theory of Everything manages to avoid such pitfalls.
Tactfully navigating Jane Hawking’s memoir Travelling to Infinity, McCarten’s script is respectful of both the physicist and his first wife’s struggle with his motor neurone disease.
Winner of this year’s Best Actor Award at the Golden Globes, Eddie Redmayne portrays Hawking with a combination of physicality and emotional astuteness; so convincingly does he capture the physicist’s affable charm that one forgets it’s Redmayne in the chair.
No less commanding is Felicity Jones’s portrayal of Jane’s struggle to balance family responsibility with a desire for a ‘normal’ life. An archetypal English Rose on the surface, Jones conveys Jane’s steely stoicism without de-humanising her reactions – although at times it is hard to fathom such calmness.
Jones and Redmayne are joined by a strong supporting cast, with standout performances from Charlie Cox as Jane’s love interest, Jonathan, and David Thewlis as Hawking’s PhD professor.
The Theory of Everything is a moving tribute to one of the most iconic figures of our times – and overdue recognition for the woman who stood in his shadow for so long.