This is the extraordinary story of one of the world’s greatest living minds, the renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, who falls deeply in love with fellow Cambridge student Jane Wilde.
Putting aside all the controversy surrounding this years Oscar nominations/snubs, and the fact that a large portion of the films this year seem to be biopics, this film really is remarkable and it is largely down to one factor: Eddie Redmayne.
His embodiment of Stephen Hawking is frighteningly accurate, from the moment he is on screen to the moment he leaves it, you often forget you are watching an actor play him. I read an article before watching the film, about the notion of ‘cripping up’, stating that Eddie Redmayne playing someone with ALS/motor neurone disease is the same as a white person blacking up. It is hardly the same. There are plenty of excellent black actors out there, you wouldn’t black up Tom Hardy and have him play Martin Luther King just because he’s a good actor. You would choose a good black actor. With regards to Stephen Hawking, he was able-bodied at first. Having someone who is ‘crippled’ would not have worked, because they would have had to be able-bodied in the first part of the film. It does raise a point though, that perhaps casting directors need to look further afield than a famous actor who can ‘do’ something others naturally have, but it was a bullshit way of referencing that point.
It was a poor article that referenced something that nobody was thinking. Pure click-bait to jump on the bandwagon of success this film is rightfully enjoying. Eddie’s performance is simply incredible, and he elevates this film from romanticised dross to something a whole lot more meaningful. The disease is crippling, and you feel his pain. Not only upon discovery, but the gradual degradation of the human body to a motionless and speechless individual is an awful sight to behold, and Redmayne conveyed and delivered that perfectly.
I did expect more of the film to be relating to his scientific successes, I wanted all the thoughts of his genius brain to be dumbed down for a mainstream audience member like myself, and somehow walk out with all the knowledge of space and time etched into the front of my mind. Instead I got a love story, and felt like weeping every time Eddie Redmayne was on screen. Adapted from Jane’s memoirs, “Travelling to Infinity”, the film to my surprise focussed largely on the love story of Jane & Stephen. It was a rose tinted perspective, tastefully executed, displaying how love can triumph over physical disability, for the most part. It did however leave me a little bit confused by the end; it almost seemed too perfect. I cannot for one second believe that they did not fight, that Jane did not break down, that Stephen did not chip away at her, that everything was as perfect and calm as they made out. Digging about afterwards shows my assumptions to be true. Perhaps it was done as to not tarnish the reputation of a man who is largely recognised as one of the cleverest individuals in the world, and who has gone to the effort to keep his personal life out of the spotlight for so long.
It had a nostalgic feel to the film, slightly blurred at times with excellent use of fashion and technology to indicate what era of his life we were in. Felicity Jones was fantastic as Jane, but never got to shine quite like Eddie did. Jane was a straight talking, clever, calm and well articulated woman, but it was not displayed enough. Her academic achievements were not emphasised nor were the arguments or discussions where she stood up to Stephen, instead she stood quietly and humbly got on with her life however she could. You felt her frustrations, but they were never fully shown, and in by doing so it detracted from her strength and resilience.
To delve any deeper into the film would be repetitive, if you take it at face value and don’t delve into the facts, it is an extraordinary love story with two great performances. If you are interested in the non-romantic, much more science focussed portrayal of Stephen Hawking battling against the odds of his disease, I would like to point you in the direction of Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of the man himself, aptly titled, “Hawking”.