Friday, November 14, 2014


The Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything official site I am sure the memory about the recent ice-bucket-challenge frenzy is still quite fresh for everyone. However, I wonder how many actually know the purpose behind each bucket of wasted icy water—to raise money for combating amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease). The disease's best known public figure is perhaps the celebrated theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking. His extraordinary story is unfold in the director James Marsh's beautifully-made yet unsatisfying film "The Theory of Everything" (UK 2014 | 123 min.). There is no ice-bucket challenge in the film, but everyone will have a better understanding about the ALS disease and the most famous person who suffers from it.

The film opens in 1963 when Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) is a preppy 21-year-old PhD student at University of Cambridge studying cosmology. His nerdy and witty personality wins the heart of Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones). Stephen has an ambition to develop a theory that explains everything by a single mathematical equation. However, his bright future is shattered by a cruel reality: he has motor neuron disease which progressively destroys his mobility and he has only two years to live.

Neither Stephen nor Jane is willing to accept the sentence. They get married, build a family, and put up a fierce fight with the disease. Meanwhile, Stephen's academic career blossoms. Even he loses the ability to speak and move, with the aid of a special equipment, he makes significant contribution to the research in physics and writes a bestselling book called "A Brief History of Time". At the age of 72, he also outlives his death sentence for five decades.

The Theory of Everything Official Site

Stephen Hawking indeed leads a fascinating and productive life despite his devastating illness. Based on Stephen's first wife Jane's memoir, with a gorgeous lens and solid performance, Oscar-winning director James Marsh smoothly captures major events in Stephen's life, especially his marriage with Jane. He unfolds his story in the same fashion as Stephen writes about physics to a wider audience. That could be a double edged sword. While the film is easy for the mind to follow, it also appears mellow and lacks of climax and dramatic sparks.

Like many other films about scientists, science is trivialized and water down in the film. We never get to witness how Stephen conducts his research and derives complex mathematics formula when all he can do is touch the switch for the machine to generate a voice for him. Maybe he is exceptional genius that he accomplishes everything in his brilliant mind behind that pair of giant glasses frame without the need of scratch paper. If that's true, the film doesn't say either. The film also fails to explain why Stephen's work is significant in physics and takes his celebrity status for granted.

However, despite the film's shortcomings, the superb performances by Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones keep the film flowing nicely and present us a touching love story.

"The Theory of Everything," a Focus Features release, opens on Friday, November 14, 2014 in San Francisco Bay Area.

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