Not many people can say they have been photographed as a baby with Stephen Hawking. When CHS junior Ari Freedman was only one month old, however, just such a a photo was taken.
Freedman’s father had been an executive producer of the 1991 documentary about the renowned physicist’s life, titled “A Brief History of Time” after Hawking’s best-selling classic. Now, almost 14 years later, another film about Stephen Hawking has been released, this time a drama based on Jane Hawking’s book “Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen.”
“The Theory of Everything” tells the story of Hawking’s college years at Cambridge, his relationship with his wife Jane and the struggles of family life as his condition worsens. It is an uplifting story of overcoming adversity and defying expectations, both a touching romance for intellectuals and an engaging cosmology lecture for the lay person.
Depicting the brilliant Stephen Hawking is not an easy challenge to pull off, but British actor Eddie Redmayne may well make his name by it. Through his performance, quiet and confident at first, we feel Hawking’s faith rattled when, just as his romance is developing, he is diagnosed with motor neuron disease.
Perhaps the film’s most striking scene is when a doctor tells Hawking he has two years to live. Here, director James Marsh’s use of camera angles, superb throughout, is at its best, as a jarringly close-up face and enunciated diagnosis show the stark reality of Hawking’s situation.
Sure, it’s difficult to eat popcorn as you watch Hawking progressively lose the ability to walk and then talk, and as you view Redmayne portray Hawking’s posture, expressive facial features and impaired speech so spot-on it makes you uncomfortable. Despite this, “The Theory of Everything” is not depressing. In fact, it has tremendous optimism for the human spirit.
The film’s optimism is complemented by the strength of Felicity Jones’ portrayal of the dedicated Jane; by its drifting piano score, classically-based yet unique and fitting; and by its perfect pacing, which lends the film its focus on time, central to Hawking’s research and amazing life.
“There should be no boundaries to human endeavor,” Hawking says at one point. “While there’s life, there is hope.” And that may just be the pivotal equation, the universal constant, that is the key to “The Theory of Everything.”