Based on Jane Hawking's memoir Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen and directed by Academy Award winner James Marsh (Man on Wire), the acclaimed film is an unforgettable portrait of a singular marriage and the two exceptional souls who built it. The Theory of Everything is nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay (screenwriter, Anthony McCarten).
Set to the music of Jóhann Jóhannsson, Academy Award nominee and Golden Globe Award® winner for Best Original Score, The Theory of Everything stars Academy Award® nominee and Golden Globe Award winner Eddie Redmayne and Academy Award® nominee Felicity Jones. The duo have dazzled critics and audiences alike with their stunning portrayals of one of the world's greatest living minds and the woman who persevered for love. Once a healthy, active young man, Hawking receives an earth-shattering diagnosis at 21 years of age. With Jane fighting tirelessly by his side, Stephen embarks on his most ambitious scientific work, studying the very thing he now has precious little of—time. Together, they defy impossible odds, breaking new ground in medicine and science, and achieving more than they could ever have dreamed.
If you're like me, your knowledge of acclaimed theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking probably doesn't go far beyond his scientific theories or the fact that, due to his suffering from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), he's been confined to both a wheelchair and a computer voicing his thoughts for most of his adult life. Thanks to 'The Theory of Everything', I learned not only did Hawking have a life prior to his current state, but he also had a wife (he's currently on his second marriage) and family. This movie tells us the story most of us didn't know and, surprisingly, for a man whose career has been devoted to hard science – it's full of warmth, love, and – dare I say it? – spirituality.
Eddie Redmayne stars as Hawking in an Oscar winning performance that I found to be quite moving and honest. Most viewers know going into this story exactly what they're going to be in for as far as Hawking's debilitation is concerned, and while the movie does show Hawking's struggles and frustration with his disease, it never wallows in it, primarily because Hawking himself never did.
The film opens with Hawking a quite lively – although still quite nerdy – lad at the University of Cambridge, where he's working on obtaining his doctorate. At a party, he runs into young Jane Wilde, whom he is immediately interested in, although even at this first meeting Hawking espouses his atheist beliefs, while Jane presents herself as someone who believes in a divine power. This tension between science and faith is a big aspect of their relationship, and will eventually be one of the causes for its failure.
When Hawking learns of his diagnosis, he's lead to believe that he probably only has about two years to live, which may be one of the reasons he started to have such a laser-like focus on his career and what he was hoping to achieve. For the record, Hawking's studies turned toward trying to prove that time had a beginning (and, hence, probably an end) – which, he believed could lead to a single theory proving all of the universe's existence (hence, the title of this movie). Don't worry if you can't follow Hawking's scientific postulations, understanding them (as if any average person really could) aren't necessary for one's enjoyment of this story. One only needs to understand the relationship between his disease and the theory he's trying to prove – a man with seemingly so little time trying to solve the entire history of it.
As Hawking's physical disability becomes more and more difficult for Jane (now married to him, with a number of children of their own) to handle, the couple agrees that they need to bring someone in for outside help. Jane has met a church organist named Jonathan Hellyer Jones (played by Charlie Cox) whom she brings into the family dynamic to help out. Naturally, as Jonathan and Jane spend more and more time together, an attraction develops between the two that leads to even more strain on the Hawking marriage. In any other movie, it would be so easy to portray Jonathan as the bad guy, but 'The Theory of Everything' doesn't go there, instead giving us a man that – in his own way – is just as noble and decent as Hawking himself.
'The Theory of Everything' is not an easy movie to sit through. There's an overwhelming sadness to Hawking's story, even with some of the great triumphs that he achieves. So the movie is one of those rare beasts that will make you cry but leave you feeling uplifted and inspired at the same time. It's wonderfully acted and directed, and certainly worth picking up.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The Theory of Everything' arrives on home video in a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD combo pack. The discs are housed inside a standard Elite keepcase, with the dual-layer DVD on the inside left and the 50GB Blu-ray on the inside right. A slipcover matching the artwork of the keepcase's slick slides overtop. An insert contains the code for both an iTunes and UltraViolet digital copy of the movie. Both the DVD and the Blu-ray are front-loaded with trailers for 'Black Sea', DragonHeart 3, and Rosewater. The main menu of the Blu-ray uses the standard Universal design, with the box cover image and menu selections running down the left side of the screen. The DVD menu uses the same image, with selections running across the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-ray in this release is region-free.
'The Theory of Everything' was shot digitally using Arri Alexa equipment, which makes for a nicely appealing transfer to the Blu-ray format. There's an interesting dynamic going on with the cinematography here (by Benoít Delhomme), as anything dealing with Hawking's romance with Jane is filmed with very lush and warm colors, while anything dealing with his medical diagnosis or treatment is shot with very sterile whites and blues. In fact, Cinematographer Delhomme plays with natural lighting in almost every scene of the movie, sometimes washing characters in blues, other times in reds, or just using natural sunlight to bathe over the actors. While the result isn't always pristine in terms of high-def detail, there's little doubt that this is one beautiful-looking movie. It's one of the few digitally-shot titles that actually 'fool' one into thinking it may have been shot on film.
Because of the color changes throughout the movie, skin tones aren't always consistent – nor are they intended to be. The colorful scenes have very rich skin tones, while the scenes more devoid of color show tones that are very pale by comparison. Black levels and shadow delineation are strong throughout, and I detected no evident issues with banding, aliasing, compression or the like.
The only audio option here (other than the bonus commentary track) is a 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio track that more than does justice for this movie, although it suffers from the one issue that plagues many big studio releases on Blu-ray: the soundtrack music and much of the ambient noises drowning out the dialogue in the movie. This is apparent very early in the film as the characters arrive at a party and the level of the songs playing are greater than the spoken word.
Other than the balance issue, this is a pretty solid track, with some nice and creative directionality (listen to the wheels on Hawking's bike zip around the rear speakers in the opening scene) and, for a movie that primarily focuses on dialogue, a feel of immersiveness from time to time. In terms of any aural glitches, there were none noted.
In addition to the lossless audio, subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish, and French.
'The Theory of Everything' is one of those movies that is incredibly sad yet incredibly inspirational at the same time. It features two brilliant performances by young actors Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, and some outstanding direction and cinematography to boot. For a story about a man so engrossed in science and math, it's amazing how much human emotion and spirituality comes across in his story. This one's solidly recommended.