His head has a very slight tilt on the right, his smile is endearingly shy and and his eyes glimmer with mischief and brilliance behind those large glasses. This is how you see young Stephen Hawking at 21, as he walks up to his to-be wife, Jane (Felicity Jones), for the first time at a party. A few charming dates later; you notice a very slight change in his feet angle as he spins around with Jane. And just when he is discovering the joy of exploring his theory of time on the blackboard, his hands and knuckles bend ominously.
Soon, he is seen dragging himself down the stairs, a father of two babies. He has also completed his doctorate. Sometimes he slurs so much that his wife, Jane, has to translate. That is one of her simpler chores amongst her more strenuous, nursing efforts.
Stephen has just proved his first theory that Time has a beginning. Only, years later, he comes up with another theory which disproves and contradicts his first theory. By then, he is way past proving his doctors wrong too. At 21, they had given him two years to live after diagnosing a motor neuron disorder, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) that paralyses him over the years. Fortunately, the impairment in body and speech, has not taken away the function of his brilliant, questioning mind, which loves Physics. Hawking is 72 today and has refused the Queen’s medal.
Interestingly, The Theory of Everything, based on Jane’s memoir, “Travelling to Infinity: My life with Stephen”, looks at Hawking’s relationship with his wife as they battle his disease together and try to lead ‘normal’ lives as a couple and parents. Their very British manner and emotional self-control, is touched upon, with gentle humour. The growth and challenges in their relationship culminate in a very deeply poignant moment when Jane tells Hawking, ”I have loved you” and the two weep bitterly, together even in their separation.
The film, however, refrains from going deep into their differences, the seeds of which are seen in their contrasting ideologies of science and religion. There is a glimpse of the household turning into ménage-a trois, with the entry of choirmaster, Jonathan (Charlie Cox). It’s amazing the way, the director, James Marsh, treats this intrusion with gentle, tender gloves of underwriting. The gradual shift in relationships is, however overlooked with the story’s focus on Hawking’s scientific achievements.
The Theory of Everything is a highly dignified love story with a true, happy ending that transcends all norms in love, science and medicine. As for Hawking’s own work and deserved claim to fame, it might be better to get a copy of his immensely popular book, “A Brief History of Time”.
By the time, the credits appear (in reverse order in keeping with the scientist’s last theory), you recall, that you were not watching Stephen Hawking himself. That was the equally brilliant actor, Eddie Redmayne, recipient of the recent Golden Globe award.