Warning – potato based spoilers!
This weekend I went to see the Theory of Everything at the cinema. And, let me tell you, this is a film about everything – life, love, illness, mortality, science, academia, time, family, religion and more. It charts the life of Stephen Hawking, through his PhD, discovery that he has Motor Neurone Disease and his first marriage, covering about 20 years of his life.
This is the trailer which contains a lot of the best bits:
Both Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones have received oscar nominations for their roles as Stephen Hawking and his wife, Jane, respectively and in my opinion they both do a cracking job. Felicity portrays a very human character dealing with a lot of tough life decisions with grace and courage. I have not fully made up my mind on Eddie’s portrayal of Stephen Haking yet, I need to digest, but I think that I found it wonderful, with doses of humour and compassion, how does an actor take on such a famous person with very obvious physical disabilities without stepping into the realm of the characature?
Having completed a PhD myself and spent time in academic environments I found it hard to watch Stephen’s 3 minute viva with any credibility, especially knowing that mine was short at 2 1/2 hours (I know he was special but, come on!) and I took most of the academic chat with a pinch of salt. The idea that someone (anyone) is a “genius” is a frustrating concept to me, Stephen Hawking put the work in, had the right people around him and had the self confidence, courage and strength to put his beliefs out there, then follow through on it.
The timescales covered in this film were a surprise to me, I thought that it was going to be over a much shorter timescale, showing his early diagnoses with MND and the following few years, but I’m glad it didn’t because it was the gradual march forward of time that gave this film its legs (eek – didn’t mean that slightly insensitive pun). The beginning was literally very light with fireworks and fairy lights and glowing shirts under UV light (this is in the trailer so isn’t a spoiler). As time went on everything became a little duller as light dispersed and life took it’s toll. Analogous to our universe, always expanding since the big bang, so the light is gradually dimming as it gets more and more spread apart – can you imagine how spectacular the universe would have looked 13 billion years ago? Time was a big theme in this film and has been a big theme in Stephen Hawking’s life, both personally and professionally. Having been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease and given a prognosis of 2 years to live time was against him, but he has beaten all the odds and is still alive over 50 years later!
I was more drawn in by Jane’s story than Stephen’s, perhaps because I already knew the facets of Stephen’s life, so her story was fresh and new to me, and more relatable. I was routing for her. One of her lighter moments that I particularly loved was when Felicity Jones as Jane described quantum theory and relativity using peas and potatoes, she could be in for the FameLab prize (the science communicator’s amongst you will know what this is) as well as the Oscar with that kind of Science Communication. I love this actress, partly because one of my friends once told me that I was reminiscent of her in my looks an my acting style, so I am rooting for her to pick up all the awards!
There are some very interesting topics in here which deserve more sensitivity and time and space to fully discuss and I may cover them in future blog posts, the relationship between science and god being one of them. If you are interested in Motor Neurone Disease and it’s impacts then I would like to direct you to The Broad Appeal, an organisation particularly close to the heart of a friend of mine who has had first hand experience of knowing someone with the disease.
Have you seen this movie? What did you think? Let me know in the comments or on social media.