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In this dramatized account of Stephen Hawking’s life, much focus is given to the effects of his disease, his relationship with his wife, and the humor he kept despite his diagnosis.
Review (with Spoilers)
With already having seen Hawking, a 2013 documentary Stephen Hawking personally participated in, and then there being a Benedict Cumberbatch film on Hawking, it does make you wonder what could this film have to say or what new perspective could it bring? Well, with it being based more so on the recollections of Hawking’s first wife, there is your answer. Now, whether or not her take on Stephen Hawking is worth seeing, look below.
Characters & Story
In the film, while Stephen Hawking’s (Eddie Redmayne) accomplishments are mentioned, the real focus is him having motor neuron disease and all that his wife Jane (Felicity Jones) stood by him through. Whether it was him losing the ability to walk, feed himself, or even speak, she was there. All the while trying to balance managing 3 children and not lose herself to Hawking’s needs.
When it comes to the film, it is Redmayne and Jones’ performance which are the main, and perhaps only, thing deserving praise. If just because Redmayne fully takes on Hawking to the point you feel like he shows the human side to the man. For while most of the scientific bits can easily go over a person’s head, what Redmayne helps illustrate is who Hawking was as a person. How he had this odd charm and sense of humor; how he is sarcastic at times; and how, despite his ailment, the only thing that really changed about him was his ability to fully express these different traits physically.
Though alongside showing Hawking’s personality, Redmayne also does a superb job in showing the difficulties of Hawking’s condition. For imagine being a brilliant person who is slowly becoming trapped in your own body. Someone who was born with the ability to walk, talk, and write, but have each ability slip away from you when you are perhaps at your peak years of life. Redmayne shows the frustration, and with talking about Hawking’s disease comes the need to speak on Jane.
Now, in most biopics it often seems like the wife of the well-known man never gets her side told. With this film, though, I think the kindest approach is taken to Jane’s relationship with Stephen. It illustrates them falling in love, her willing to truly be there in sickness and in health, and her trying to be everything to everybody for as long as humanly possible. And during all this, Jones finds a way to break out of what would be a cage most actresses would experience in such a role. For while she is very much the loving wife, she is allowed the ability to also have Jane be seen as a person. Something which makes it so when the focus isn’t on Hawking or his work, it doesn’t seem, fully, like Jane is just having a bone thrown to her.
With that said, though, I’m starting to understand why most biopics focus on just one accomplishment of a figure’s life. For, as I could hear from the man snoring behind me, this film can be potentially boring. If just because, it is the type of film which is more about performances, and the art of acting, than a film which necessarily seeks to entertain the audience. Which isn’t to say I necessarily found the film boring, for between the romance and the humor I stayed awake. However, between the slow pacing; the science parts which are a bit confusing, especially if you aren’t into Hawking’s work; and then us watching Jane’s relationship with Jonathan (Charlie Cox), I can fully understand why that man fell asleep.
Overall: TV Viewing
While I loved the performances in the film, a part of me feels that if the theater’s seats were comfortable I would have dozed off with the other guy watching the movie. For while there is humor, and a sweet romance, with the only drama being Stephen’s body becoming out of his control, there isn’t much to keep you really gripped by what is going on. Hence the TV Viewing label because this film isn’t like Nightcrawler, for example. It is about the art of film more so than the entertainment aspect, leading me to think it is probably best watched at home.
Things To Note
While Elaine Mason (Maxine Peake) is in the movie, her relationship with Stephen isn’t gone into that deeply. Nor some of the other subjects Stephen Hawking mentions in the aforementioned 2013 documentary.