By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
This biopic/romance story of physicist Stephen Hawking and his love Jane Wilde Hawking may have a formulaic structure, but that doesn’t make their true story any less compelling. The fact that this film is written directed and performed with much heart makes it that much more fascinating, engrossing and inspiring. Stephen Hawking’s story should be an inspiration to any person facing incredible obstacles and challenges in life. His body may have debilitated by disease, but his incredible mind has helped him rise above his physical disability.
Eddie Redmayne stars as Stephen Hawking, the world renown physicist and cosmologist who has rocked the world of science with his theories on space, the birth of the universe, and black holes. While studying at Cambridge University, Hawking meets Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones), a strong and vibrant Romance language student whose religious beliefs are the antithesis of all of Hawking’s work. Despite their differences in beliefs, the two share an undeniable romantic chemistry and begin a relationship. Not long after their romance begins, Stephen gets diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and is expected to die in two years. Stephen and Jane decide to marry despite the odds against them, and attempt to live their lives to the fullest by birthing and raising children while Stephen pursues his educational endeavors.
Based on the memoir, Traveling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen Hawking by Jane Wilde Hawking, director James Marsh and writer Anthony McCarten have made a solid film, but one that relies on a typical formula of triumph over adversity. Even though the movie does take an unexpected turn , the presentation does feel all too familiar. If one has already seen other movies like A Beautiful Mind, then one should know more or less what to expect. On the more positive side, the unexpected turn taken towards the end of the film does thankfully tell Hawking’s story more truthfully than A Beautiful Mind does for John Nash.
Still, despite the other typical ways this story is presented, I do give credit to writer Anthony McCarten for writing realistic and genuine scenes and dialogue for the characters. The relationship between Stephen and Jane feels bona fide and true to life. Both Jones and Redmayne deliver accolade-worthy performances here. I sincerely want to see there names on the lists of acting nominations next year. Jones brings a sweet and lovable charm to Jane, but also naturally portrays that inner strength that was necessary to be Stephen Hawking’s wife. As Hawking, Redmayne is exceptional and had to uncomfortably endure long hours of sitting in Hawking’s signature contorted position. He also manages to express himself well, despite the limitations of movement, facial expression, and eventually, the inability to speak.
These outstanding performances, the development of their characters, and the inspiring nature of this story have steered me to give this film a 3.5 rating despite its flaws. I can honestly say that the story of the Hawkings is one worthy of cinematic treatment. Even though this may not be the best way to tell their story, the filmmakers could have done much worse. I must highly recommend this movie to people with physical disabilities who feel unable to pursue their dreams.