He’s been immortalised in The Simpsons and recently commented he’d be ideal casting for a Bond villain as “the wheelchair and the computer voice would fit the part.” And now the inimitable Professor Stephen Hawking is portrayed on celluloid by Eddie Redmayne in biopic The Theory Of Everything.
Beginning with Stephen as a young man at Oxford, it charts how he met fellow student Jane (Felicity Jones) at a dance, leading quickly to romance. So far, so normal for students the world over. But then his college life diverged from the norm. Firstly, he was more than a good deal smarter than average, shamefacedly confessing to ‘only’ solving 9 out of 10 supposedly impossible equations set by his tutors. Secondly, bouts of clumsiness led to a diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease, with a prognosis of a mere 2 years to live.
From there on, we mostly know his story. He completed his PHD, married Jane, produced 2 children, wrote the seminal A Brief History Of Time among other tomes, receiving accolades from around the globe. And he continues to live.
What we may not know, and what The Theory Of Everything captures so well, is the intense emotion and struggle behind his story. The shock of facing death when so young, of being reliant on others for your basic survival, of losing control of your body to the point when even eating is fraught with the danger of choking. Coupled with the selfless early dedication of his wife Jane, it’s part love story, part sublime lecture in the power of the mind and spirit to not just keep going in the most desperate circumstances, but to excel. You could question why a biopic of Hawking has been made before his death. Having watched it, it is a testament to life and seems perfectly apt. The Sloth recommends you take tissues. Make it a big box.
UK release 1 January 2015