It’s finally here, the long-awaited film about the life of Stephen Hawking, one of the greatest minds in modern times. Not only has he been instrumental in shaping modern cosmology, but he has also been a leading figure in the popularisation of science due to his bestseller “A Brief History of Time”, which propelled him to celebrity status. The question now is: is the movie worthy of the man?
Just as a random side-fact, both Stephen and his (now ex) wife Jane have seen the film, and they both really liked it. In fact, the original cut of the film featured a computerised voice which was different to the one that Hawking actually uses (because they don’t make that voice anymore – it’s from the early 80s), but after seeing the film, Hawking liked it so much that he offered to lend “his” voice to it.
Eddie Redmayne’s performance as Hawking is outstanding, and places him as a leading contender for best actor. The physicality of making a character believable is a very undersold thing (everyone goes on and on about the lines and the voice), and filling Hawking’s shoes presents some rather unique challenges. This being a story which starts roughly around the time he began his PhD and was physically quite normal, presents the challenge of having to not only act like you have motor neuron disease, but also various different stages from the very mild, to the quite serious (not to mention that movie shoots are rarely conducted in chronological order).
The writers have done a stellar job, and not surprisingly since the screenplay is based on Jane’s book about their relationship. She acts as the audience surrogate – the “normal” person with whom the audience can relate and through her eyes we observe Stephen’s story. Cleverly, and essentially, the plot focuses on the relationship between Stephen and Jane. As much as I love the physics, I’m quite sure that making that the centrepiece of the film would have lost most of the audience. Fundamentally, this is a story about love overcoming difficulty.
It’s gritty, it’s real (based on a true story), and at times is surprisingly unflattering. The attempts at weaving some of the more complicated physics into the story aren’t even too terrible. I thouroughly enjoyed it and I can’t stress enough how utterly believable Redmayne was as Hawking. Three stories – the love story, the physics story, and the horrible illness story weave together seamlessly in a film about exactly the kind of hero the world should be inspired by, and look up to.
This is one of the most “complete” films I’ve seen in a long time. It’s no one-trick pony, and it constantly surprises with its warmth and sensitivity to a situation which is essentially very difficult to deal with. Emotional weight is brought to the table with the relationship, and the backdrop of Hawking’s extraordinary story provides the perfect counterpoint to the everyday events which unfold on screen. I honestly think that this will win best picture, and I really hope it does, it touched and connected with me on many different levels.