Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones are the two main reasons to watch The Theory of Everything, a biopic about the life of renowned scientist Steven Hawking. Both give compassionate performances, and their relationship at the heart of this admirable but otherwise largely conventional film certainly makes it worth a watch.
But let’s face it: The Theory of Everything is Oscar bait. True story? Check. Inspirational, physically challenging lead performance? Check. Debilitating disease? Check. Triumph of the human spirit? Check. I find it very difficult to keep cynicism at bay with this kind of film. Steven Hawking is certainly a good subject, but screenwriter Anthony McCarten and director James Marsh play things fairly safe. Perhaps I’m being unfair, but with the singular and brilliant Birdman still rattling around my subconscious, I wanted The Theory of Everything to be a little more cinematically daring.
On the plus side, at a spiritual level, the film is interesting in the way it grapples with Hawking’s disbelief in God versus his wife Jane’s belief. Hawking is portrayed as being someone who, whilst he doesn’t believe, is perhaps open to being proved wrong because, as he puts it, his personal beliefs are irrelevant in physics. This is clearly demonstrated in the way he tries to disprove his own theories. What Steven Hawking actually believes in real life, who knows? A brief Google search tells me contradictory things. But whether God was or wasn’t involved in the creation of the Universe remains a major part of his ongoing research. As a Christian, I for one admire Hawking, because he is simply asking questions as any good scientist should.
All things considered, The Theory of Everything isn’t a bad film. It is well acted, moving and does contain some thought provoking subject matter. But it is, unquestionably, machine-tooled to seek Oscar glory.