Weekend Review: The Theory of Everything (2014)

Today Cambridge buries the late, great Stephen Hawking. Back in 2014, they gave him a biopic, which Hawking considered “broadly true” in recounting his life. Others have been critical of liberties taken with the source material, and the depiction of specific characters.

In memory of Hawking, we’re reviewing it today.

Title: The Theory of Everything

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Directed by James Marsh
Written by Anthony McCarten
Based on Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen by Jane Hawking.

Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking
Felicity Jones as Jane Hawking
Tom Prior as Robert Hawking (Age 17)
Sophie Perry as Lucy Hawking (Age 14)
Finlay Wright-Stephens as Timothy Hawking
Harry Lloyd as Brian
Alice Orr-Ewing as Diana King
David Thewlis as Dennis Sciama
Thomas Morrison as Carter
Michael Marcus as Ellis
Gruffudd Glyn as Rees
Paul Longley as Barman
Emily Watson as Beryl Wilde
Guy Oliver-Watts as George Wilde
Simon McBurney as Frank Hawking
Lucy Chappell as Mary Hawking
Charlotte Hope as Philippa Hawking
Abigail Cruttenden as Isobel Hawking


A brilliant but under-performing physics student learns he has ALS, and doctors give him two years to live. He commits himself to his work and, despite his deteriorating condition and dire prognosis, he lives for decades, and becomes one of history’s great physicists and a bona fide celebrity.

High Points:

Eddie Redmayne transforms himself into Stephen Hawking. He looks and acts so much like the familiar physicist, through various stages of his life, it becomes difficult not to think of him as Hawking. Felicity Jones proves equally impressive as Jane.

Low Points:

While the film gives us a “broadly true” glimpse into Hawking’s personal life and challenges, it gives us too little sense of his accomplishments. Everyone knows he was that most rare of creatures, a famous physicist. This film won’t really tell you why.

(Yes—I recognize that is a tall order for any film).

The Scores:

Originality: 2/6 We have a conventional adaptation of an unconventional life.

Effects: 5/6 This is no effects film, but it features a number of seamlessly-integrated visuals. They do a convincing job of recreating 1960s Cambridge in the first third, and mimicking Hawking’s condition throughout. CGI and other techniques helped create various backgrounds, including a sequence in space.

The filmmakers used Hawking’s actual voice synthesizer in the making of the movie.

Story: 5/6 The storytelling is solid and straightforward.

Acting: 6/6 In addition to extraordinary acting by the two leads, this film features strong and credible performances throughout.

Production: 6/6

Emotional Response: 5/6

Overall: 5/6 By all counts—including the source book—Stephen and Jane’s gradual breakup involved considerably more anger and raw emotion than we see here. These people seem implausibly noble at times, which would be inspiring if it were true, but, apparently, it is not.

Of course, that either Stephen or Jane accomplished what they did– he perseveres for decades, to a large degree, because of her– reveals both of them to be extraordinary people.

In total, The Theory of Everything receives 34/42.