In Scottish novelist JM Barrie’s most beloved work, Peter Pan famously contemplates his mortality on Marooner’s Rock and observes, ‘To die will be an awfully big adventure’.
For more than half a century since he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking has – happily – pushed aside his awfully big adventure and astounded the medical community.
Defying the short life expectancy associated with the rare condition, he has married twice, raised a family and altered our narrow perception of the universe including the publication of his worldwide bestseller, A Brief History Of Time.
As Hawking remarked at a press conference in 2006, ‘However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope.’
Those inspirational words are repeated verbatim in The Theory Of Everything.
Based on the memoir Travelling To Infinity by Jane Wilde Hawking, James Marsh’s deeply moving drama charts the romance of Stephen (Eddie Redmayne) and first wife Jane (Felicity Jones) from fleeting glances at a party at mid-1960s Cambridge University through their subsequent battle against MND.
Stephen’s parents Frank (Simon McBurney) and Isobel (Abigail Cruttenden) initially warn Jane off their son, fearful of the emotional devastation that will be wrought if he dies within the two years predicted by doctors.
‘It’s not going to be a fight, Jane. It’s going to be a very heavy defeat, for all of us,’ laments Frank.
Love must find a way and Jane defies everyone, even a pessimistic Stephen, to stand beside her soul mate.
‘I want us to be together, for as long as we’ve got,’ she tells him. ‘If that’s not very long then – well, that’s just how it is.’
Her resolve inspires Stephen to continue his search for ‘one single elegant equation to explain everything.’
Aided by choirmaster Jonathan Jones (Charlie Cox) and carer Elaine Mason (Maxine Peake), Jane raises the couple’s three children and holds their marriage together.
The Theory Of Everything is anchored by two of the year’s best performances.
Redmayne is simply astounding, affecting a mesmerizing physical transformation that surely warrants an Oscar.
He brilliantly conveys every raw emotion or flash of impish humour with his eyes or the twitch of a facial muscle.
Jones is equally compelling as his soul mate, who sacrifices everything in the name of love.
The scene in which she finally acknowledges hard-fought defeat to save the relationship and tearfully tells Stephen, ‘I have loved you... I did my best,’ is heartbreaking.
Director Marsh uses simple visual motifs to illuminate the complex cosmology, such as a swirl of cream in a cup of coffee to represent a spiral galaxy in Stephen’s mind.
With its delicate balance of tear-stained drama, deeply felt romance and comedy, The Theory Of Everything hits upon a winning formula.