For those deadened by the Transformers saga comes The Theory of Everything, a Stephen Hawking biopic to remind us even prestige movies made with good intentions can be interminable too. (This may not be the most inspirational angle on modern cinema, I realise.)

Undeniably, Eddie Redmayne is a dead ringer for Hawking, and he devotes himself to the role, wholeheartedly, when the genius physicist’s body begins to disintegrate from a debilitating motor neuron disease. Felicity Jones also does fine work as Jane Wilde Hawking, Stephen’s intense and steadfast first wife. Also undeniable: these are two good performances in search of a fitting flick.


Jane authored the memoir (Travelling to Infinity) used by screenwriter Anthony McCarten to translate their tumultuous marriage, and its eventual dissolution, for the screen. The book probably illuminates the individual shades of each subject, and their life events, with greater delicacy. Here, McCarten’s screenplay hits the major beats of their life as if it was a nostalgia act playing a best of concert. It’s all Redmayne and Jones can do to keep up with the massive upheavals of their characters. Seemingly moments after meeting, courting and marrying, Jane is making eyes at family friend Jonathan (Charlie Cox) and Stephen is connecting with his spunky carer, Elaine (Maxine Peake). I’d tell director James Marsh to slow down, but the film is already, somehow, 123 minutes long.

There was no way to anticipate the badness of The Theory of Everything. Marsh’s follow-up to the enthralling documentaries Man on Wire and Project Nim – not to mention his excellent espionage thriller Shadow Dancer - is so unsubtle and cloying you’d think it had been generated by the Biopicbot 2000. His cinematographer, Benoit Delhomme, can’t find enough Instragram filters to shoot the thing through. A mere montage reveals Stephen’s physical decline, though the struggle afterwards seems to take place between scenes, which ultimately insults Jane’s huge, self-sacrificing commitment, and Hawking’s battle with impossible circumstances to earn his reputation as the world’s preeminent theoretical physicist. It’s almost as if the picture is too polite to challenge its imperfect characters or convey their reasonable, maybe-shameful frustrations and desires. When the Hawkings finally split, it’s so cold and unearned you’d think you were watching a merger dissolve.

The Theory of Everything arrives in Australian cinemas January 29, 2015.