Copyright © 2014 by Focus Features
Told through the eyes of Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones), Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) is on the verge of ascertaining that black holes are contributors to the creation of the universe when he is diagnosed with motor neuron disease. Doctors say he does not have long to live but undeterred, with Wilde’s undying support and love, he does not give up the fight to finish his research. They marry and as their members of the family continues to increase, so does the scholar’s accolades, resulting in the hypothesis of his earlier study being published in 1988.
Time is money. Often taken for granted due to its imperceptible nature, we forget how fragile life can be until it hits you on the head with a loud thump. Blessed with unparalleled intelligence but cursed by a failing body, Hawking’s world comes crashing down into an abyss of despair when he receives the devastating news (he has not more than two years before he succumbs to the sickness). He is now 73 and ‘A Brief History of Time’ was a chart-topper on the British Sunday Times for 237 weeks.
Adapted by Anthony McCarten from the recollections of Hawking’s first wife whose marriage to the scientist for 30 years is an odyssey ripe for an intimate treatment actualised sensitively through James Marsh’s direction. ‘Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen’ may be centred from Wilde’s perspective accepting and coping with her husband’s deteriorating condition but Marsh does not neglect the everyday plight our PhD holder from Cambridge has to endure.
A reminder to live each day like it is your last, Marsh ensures the message is not lost in mawkishness and Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score unobtrusively allows Redmayne and Jones to excel in their Oscar-nominated performances (edged out by the former only because he replicated an exact physicality of the real Hawking which has been rewarded handsomely so far from the Globes, SAG and BAFTAs for the ‘Best Actor in a Leading Role’; the real shocker would be if he actually loses in the Oscars).
It is difficult to compare if fellow nominee Benedict Cumberbatch of ‘The Imitation Game’ who played the part the first time a decade ago is any better (or different) but Redmayne’s delivery is nothing short of being phenomenal. As his ailment leaves him speechless, the ‘Les Misérable’ star can only convey the hurt and frustration via a lift of a brow or a half smile yet these mannerisms speak volumes of his character’s perseverance and strength to his family and friends.
Heavily invested as the epitome of patience and loyalty in a trying household and not falling behind is Jones’ poised and restrained grace which could have gone stereotypically nagging or prickly if not carefully represented. Akin to the pairing’s contrasting faith in God, neither Redmayne nor Jones will be complete without each other. Even with Jonathan Jones (Charlie Cox) and Elaine Mason (Maxine Peake) stepping in midway, the couple’s unbreakable bond works wonders whenever they are together.
I could be just nitpicking but it would have made for more insightful viewing if details about Mr and Mrs Hawking managing their finances and family’s reaction to Wilde’s ever growing responsibilities are examined further instead of skimming over fleetingly (Emily Watson in particular barely registers). But because Marsh and McCarten have chosen the theory about life, it is (almost) everything a Hawking movie should be although they do intermittently stumble on the man’s scientific breakthrough.
Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements and suggestive material