It would have been so easy for this delight of a film to turn into a lecture. What we have here is a story of the relationship between Stephen Hawking, one of the most brilliant minds alive, and his wife Jane. Hawking, famously, suffers from Motor Neurone Disease, an impairment that damages the nerves that control muscle movement, slowly trapping its victims inside their own bodies. With a life so challenging, it is very difficult to create a film that doesn’t lecture you or become a cliché.
The story begins with Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) doing his PhD at Cambridge, where he meets his future wife Jane (Felicity Jones) and it’s as their relationship deepens that Hawking is diagnosed with MND and given two years to live. What follows is their struggle to create a family and the challenges of keeping it together for the next thirty years and it is here that the film could have foundered or become formulaic.
Here though, masterful direction and powerful performances have created a film that is surprisingly positive in tone and a joy to watch. Redmayne earns the rave reviews he has been given, wholly throwing himself into the role of Hawking and manages to not just capture the heart and wry humour of the man himself but, towards the end of the film, does so with just an expression or raise of an eyebrow. It is a convincing and masterful performance that has earned him the Oscar buzz we are all hearing.
As good as it is though, Redmayne’s performance is complemented and, frankly, matched by that of Jones, playing a role that could so easily have been overshadowed but instead gives depth and courage to a woman doing her best in impossible circumstances.
This is not a story about Stephen Hawking alone, or his scientific theories – which, for the record, are a minor part of the film and quite accessible – this is, at heart, the relationship between two intelligent people, trying to do their best with what life has given them.
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