Film Review: The Theory Of Everything

It’s been a long time since I have been quite as excited about an upcoming film as I was towards The Theory Of Everything. The trailer gripped me, the story looked fascinating and the film just appealed directly to me. It struck me instantly as the type of film that I adore. Every box ticked and every day counted down subconsciously to it’s release.

And that pedestalling, meant that I was actually slightly worried that I may be expecting far too much from the movie, that it could never live up to the expectations I had placed in my mind for it. Expectations that are so high, I even named it as one of the top 10 movies I am looking forward to in 2015. And this sense was both increased and released when the awards season arrived bringing nominations, successes and plaudits where ever it appeared.

Eddie Redmayne Transforms Into Stephen Hawking - The Theory Of Everything

The first thing that strikes you instantly is Eddie Redmayne, they say that Steve Carell is transformative in Foxcatcher, but Redmayne takes it to a whole new level. He not only captures Stephen Hawking, really bringing to life the personality of the man as he descends into suggested pain and turmoil but also, handling the disease that has torn and defined Hawking’s life so much with dignity and compassion. I truly think that he should walk the Oscars, such is the individual power of his performance but sadly, fear he may get pushed out unfairly by the voters in favour of the lesser turn of Michael Keaton in Birdman.

Things with the cast aren’t all great though, because once you have relaxed into the performance of Redmayne, the rest of the ensemble start to deflate. Felicity Jones as his wife Jane is good, and deserving of her nomination from the Academy, but I don’t think she’ll win. For me, she never quite managed to convince with her eyes. The role is figuratively and literally supportive, but never she never manages to lead the scenes she is in when required to do so. I felt like the film while telling her perspective on the story never wanted to gaze at her. They didn’t want you to look directly at her. Her role as the back up to Hawking is just echoed a bit too loudly in her performance. Even worse though, was that the rest of the cast seemed to serve to drag the film down. It’s a slight who’s who of well known faces, all bringing acceptable performances to life, but where as Redmayne and Jones manage to blend into character, fooling you into forgetting their real identities, the sudden appearance of people you recognise playing characters you don’t breaks that illusion, tearing any tension the main characters create.

My biggest disappointment with The Theory Of Everything though is in it’s story. It doesn’t really have one with the clarity or depth it needs. Every event is life defining but doesn’t really go anywhere. Nothing really flows together to provide an actual story. And so, The Theory Of Everything ends up having to switch narrative tones to try and fill it’s running time. When the film is talking, presenting through the first person, when we get to see directly into the personality of the characters involved, learning about Stephen’s sense of humour, or Jane’s determination to do right and stand by her man, you instantly connect to the film, the characters and it really gets under your skin. It draws you in and makes you empathise and befriend the characters.

Eddie Redmayne As Stephen Hawking - The Theory Of Everything

Such is this power when it talks to you in the first person, you honestly forget about the Motor Neurone Disease that is tearing apart a man, his work and his family. Giving you moments of fun, enjoyable pleasure with the characters behind their eyes.

But as I said, there isn’t enough time spent looking at the characters, dropping back into a padded out the story through third person narrative that looks at a grander picture. Essentially trying to place the man into the wider context of the world and his work; and for me, it just didn’t work. It felt boring and laboured and slow. When Stephen lost his voice, so to speak, the film lost my interest. And the longer it went on and the longer the story skewed towards his thoughts rather than his personality, the less I wanted to watch it and the more, depressingly, I looked at my watch, praying there wasn’t long left to endure.

There are huge strengths to the Theory Of Everything, but they are tapered and dowsed by weaknesses that at just a little too dominating. It’s a constant fight between leading performances that bring characters to life with the delicacy they deserve and a story that lacks tension, pace and depth. And it was most noticeable, that the moments of real harrowing emotion are commanded not by the action on screen but rather by the orchestral soundtrack composed by Jóhann Jóhannsson. The rasping notes reaching into your core with more strength and power than the story ever manages. So good is the soundtrack, I can’t see the Original Score Oscar going anywhere else.

Jóhann Jóhannsson - Soundtrack - The Theory Of Everything

I’m not disappointed by, upset with my feelings towards The Theory Of Everything and the fact it hasn’t lived up to the film I was hoping to see. It’s what I call a yes and no film to the pondering question of did I enjoy it? Yes I liked it but No it wasn’t great. Visually it’s beautiful but it never felt fulfilling. It’s will just live for the rest of time in that inoffensively remembered but unwatched, middle of the road category. I think where my feelings are most hurt towards it though, is that I have come away from a biopic about Stephen, Jane, and their story about the love and commitment feeling like I still don’t actually knew either of them. And desperately wishing I did.

7 out of 10 stars (7 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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