Eddie Redmayne annoyed me intensely throughout ‘Les Miserables‘, but I have to admit he is very good in this as the talented and cruelly fated cosmologist Stephen Hawking who developed motor neuron disease when he was just 21, and for once Redmayne does put his hair down for the role (it would have been most amusing had he not done so). It’s an extremely sad story and so the physicality of what happens to the main character necessarily takes up around half of the film’s focus as the disease slowly destroys his ability to use all of the muscles in his body, with the other half zoning in on Hawking’s relationship with his wife Jane (Felicity Jones) from when they meet at Cambridge in 1963 until more or less the present day, in fact the screenplay is based on her memoir ‘Travelling to Infinity – My Life with Stephen’ published in 2008.
The title refers to the ongoing search in physics for a unifying equation that will cover all of the fundamental forces of nature and will bring quantum mechanics and general relativity into harmony with one another, as currently they don’t completely work together suggesting something is wrong with at least one of them somewhere. What is actually more fascinating than the physics (the film doesn’t really delve too deeply into the science involved) is the effect on the marital relations of the Hawkings of other people being introduced into their interpersonal space, and one could easily put the disability issue to one side and extrapolate similar effects for any relationship, and perhaps argue for a more general equation surrounding this type of natural force. Redmayne and Jones are both up for awards – in fact Redmayne has already won the Golden Globe so he may be running as the most serious contender to ‘Birdman’s‘ Micheal Keaton for the Oscar. Despite the seriousness of the film and a story that is quite painful to watch, this is nonetheless a wonderful and heartfelt biography from director James Marsh (‘Shadow Dancer‘, ‘Man on Wire’ 08).