Saturday, February 21, 2015

Oscars 2015: Best Picture Reviews - The Theory of Everything

The last nominee I saw was The Theory of Everything, not because it was the one I wanted to see the least, but just simply because that's how things went. I was actually really impressed by the selections this year and wanted to see all of them.

The Theory of Everything is about Stephen Hawking, but not about science really. This is instead a biopic about his relationship with his wife from their college years and through his life with ALS. It's incredibly hard to watch at times, simply because it's so difficult to see someone go through what he went through with the disease. It's also impressive, because he was told in the 1960's that he had two years to live and he's now in his 70's.

There were so many moments in this film that were painful. ALS is a terrifying illness, because it's hard to imagine your brain functioning just fine while your body betrays you. Both the actors in this film are amazing. Eddie Redmayne needs to win Best Actor, because this is the kind of role that could have been terribly portrayed. He never strays into falseness, and he makes your heart hurt for each moment in Hawking's progressive illness. He is also really funny, giving so much humanity to a man that is admired for his mind, known for an illness and/or his science, but not always seen as a regular person. Felicity Jones as Jane is subtly wonderful. You feel for her throughout and she definitely shows the complexity of emotions that Jane experiences loving a man who is, at times, hard to love.

I think that's what I liked most about this film. It really doesn't hero worship or make it easy on the viewer. Hawking is brilliant, yes, but difficult and moody sometimes. It is understandable, because part of it comes from his frustration with ALS, but he also does some pretty unlikable things. Jane is incredibly supportive, but at the same time, you see her unraveling. It's difficult, because she was warned going in what would happen and she refused to give up. Part of you wants to exclaim, "you knew this was coming," but then part of you feels so much sympathy because a weaker person wouldn't survive even 1% of what Jane does.

Really interesting to me was the relationship between Hawking, Jane, and Jonathan Hellyer Jones, the local church choir director and soon assistant to Jane and Stephen. It could be very simple for people watching the film, eating popcorn and heading off to live their own lives, to judge and comment on what they think is or is not right about the relationship. However, you are given so much insight into people who really are all decent at heart, but circumstances place in challenging dilemmas.

The Theory of Everything reminded me a lot of Bright Star is the style in which it was filmed, although the crews were not related. It is a quiet and emotionally wrought film, not the scientific biopic you'd expect about Stephen Hawking. In fact, very little of the story is about science, but instead about the inexplicable nature of human emotions.

This just won the BAFTA for Best British Film and although I would be surprised if it won here, I wouldn't think it was undeserved. It's the kind of film that sticks with you and makes you think and feel, which is always excellent in my book.

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