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Much about The Theory of Everything is extraordinary. Not only is it a biopic on the extraordinary and still-living scientist Stephen Hawking, it’s an unconventional love story based on his first wife’s not-too-flattering memoir. The real Hawking is a private man who hurdled many adversities in his life, and approving such an intimate movie must have been one of them. He reportedly shed tears and pronounced the film “broadly true” after viewing it.
Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements and suggestive material, Theory is a realistic, poignant capture of what it’s like to be married to a man with a madly brilliant mind in a gradually degenerating body—and with a worldview that’s perceptibly diverging from one’s own.
Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and Jane (Felicity Jones) were students at Cambridge University when they locked eyes at a party. Almost immediately, a courtship sparked as Hawking confessed his desire to discover “one single unified equation that explains everything in the universe.” Gazing at the twinkling stars and galaxies above them, Jane quoted Genesis in return.
The easy romance takes a sharp dip when Hawking is diagnosed with a motor neuron disease and doctors give him two years to live. He shuts himself away, but Jane revives his spirits, and their marriage has moments of sweetness and triumph amid acclaim. Hawking never found that single theory that explains everything in the universe—and to Jane’s great dismay, he disregards God as irrelevant to physics (the real Hawking professed atheism this September).
The cast’s talent is stunning: Redmayne’s emotion while frozen and gnarled in a wheelchair, and Jones’ fatigue as a devoted yet conflicted wife. It’s impossible not to root for them and then weep as the marriage ends in divorce.
Toward the end of the film as Stephen and Jane gaze at their three grown children, a choked-up Hawking says in his computerized voice, “Look at what we made.” That statement is the most extraordinary moment in the movie—that perhaps the world’s most intelligent and creative theorist would wonder at the creation of human life, yet fail to credit its Creator.