When the Oscar nominations were announced last Thursday, The Theory of Everything firmly sealed its position as top contender with five nominations including Best Picture, Best Actress for Felicity Jones and (of course) best actor for Eddie Redmayne. I first saw the trailer for this movie quite a while before I got to know about its buzz surrounding it, but I was immediately intrigued by it. For a moment I wasn't sure whether this film was going to be just a corny love story or a major Award contender. I am glad it turned out to be the latter. The Theory of Everything was released here in the Netherlands last Wednesday and I went to see it yesterday evening. Stop reading here if you want to avoid possible spoilers.
The Theory of Everything tells the extraordinary story of Stephen and Jane Hawking, starting when they first met at Cambridge University. Stephen is a promising cosmologist who believes first and foremost in science, whereas Jane studies languages and is Christian. The film focuses primarily on the relationship between the two, rather than showing a lot of the work Stephen has become so famous for. I think that choice is a very interesting one, showing us all something about the Hawkings' family life that isn't as commonly known as his scientific work and appearance. In fact the life of the Hawkings for a big part of the movie seemed to be as normal as it can be given the circumstances.
Stephen is brilliantly portrayed by Eddie Redmayne, who deservedly received lots and lots of praise for this role. Eddie brings his usual charm into the performance and believably shows all stages of the ALS disease. His performance seems to be a physical one first and foremost, but it is definitely elevated by minor things that make it so relatable and real. I have read critique on the movie showing too little of Stephen's more difficult sides and his sometimes not so nice behaviour towards Jane, which I can understand. The movie and Eddie's performance indeed make Stephen Hawking look more loveable than he might be. In the end that doesn't make Redmayne's performance any less impressive.
While it is easy to see the great quality of Eddie Redmayne's performance, I think the quality of Felicity Jones' performance is less obvious. I would definitely say that it matches Eddie's performance though. Her acting is beautifully subtle and captures Jane's loving, caring spirit as well as her desire to keep reaching for the stars and difficulties she experiences in her position and relationship. The praise and awards buzz Jones has gotten is definitely deserved too. Especially in a year where she could have been forgotten next to fellow buzzed about performances such as Julianne Moore's (early on-set Alzheimer's patient), Rosamund Pike's (psychopath) and Jennifer Aniston's (patient with chronic pain), which are all much showier in a sense.
Last week Jóhann Jóhannson won a Golden Globe for his score, an important part in creating the film's beautiful, dreamy and positive atmosphere. The compositions of shots, gorgeous lighting and colour schemes are very important in creating that particular vibe as well. The positivity in images and music underline the fact that (family) life with someone who is ill can be very good, forgetting for a moment that it is not always like that. After all this is a very extraordinary story and I find this particular film so special for making it feel almost ordinary.