THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING directed by James Marsh (UK, 2014)
The doctors who told Stephen Hawking that he only had around two years to live must be feeling pretty silly. They obviously weren’t counting on the man’s superhuman willpower or what the love and dedication of a good woman can do.
In some ways Hawking’s story is like one of those Sci-Fi movies where a brain is alive when the rest of the body is dead. In Cold Lazarus, for example, Dennis Potter’s final play for television, a preserved head is tapped for the brain waves it generates.
In the recent movie, Transcendence (a turkey by all accounts) starring Johnny Depp, there is a similar theme of a scientist’s brain surviving the death of his body.
Hawking’s case is different in one crucial respect, however. The fact that he has still been able to father three children is proof that his ‘muscle of life’ is unaffected by the motor neuron disease. Bizarre tabloid reports of him attending sex clubs and enjoying the attention of lap dancers also shows that his sex drive remains high.
Apparently, the filmmakers were keen to show some of the more intimate details of Hawking’s life but this plan was abandoned out of respect to his wife who stipulated that this would not be acceptable. On balance, this is probably a good compromise – some things are best left to one’s imagination.
Air-brushing of this kind is inevitable in any biopic and is even more likely when the subject is still alive. Nevertheless, thanks to the remarkable BAFTA winning performance by Eddie Redmayne this remarkable life is vividly rendered on-screen. Felicity Jones is also a revelation as his wife.
Praise is also warranted for not downplaying the fact that Hawking is a confirmed atheist. The closing speech is an inspiring reminder that it is possible to live a fulfilling and purposeful life even when they do not believe in God. He said: “There should be no boundaries to human endeavor. However bad life may seem, while there is life, there is hope.”
This is a film that made me feel humble. Whatever real or self-imposed hurdles I may face in my life bears no comparison to the problems Hawking has overcome. It’s such an amazing story that illustrates that truth can be far stranger, and more wonderful, than fiction.