A biographical drama about the famous astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, based on the autobiography Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, by his ex-wife Jane Hawking. British director James Marsh (Shadow Dancer, 2012) brought to the big screen all the key events in the life of the famous scientist when a serious illness did not stop him from creating and leaving an indelible mark in the field of modern physics. A brilliant mind remained in the physically handicapped body, pushing the boundaries of research in an attempt to penetrate at least a fraction of the mystery hidden by the universe.
The adaptation of the literary template into an interesting script was done by Anthony McCarten. Cambridge, 1963. Ambitious cosmology student Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) wants to find an explanation for how it all began, which led to the big bang and the creation of the world. When he falls in love with the charming literature student Jane Wild (Felicity Jones), he gets additional inspiration to continue studying space. A minor accident in the park reveals a devastating, bitter truth. He was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a severe form of neuromotor disorders of the muscles. Doctors do not give him more than two years of life.
In telling the story, Marsh strikes a balance between the details concerning his private life and the aspect of life that he dedicated to science and that was covered by the media. Through a couple of scenes, the professor’s lectures are processed in an effective way, from which we gain insight into the character of an exceptional person. With his hard work, he undoubtedly proved that while a person is alive, there is hope, that there is a purpose, the reason why he should continue. Despite his difficult health condition, Stephen remained optimistic, his cheerful spirit constantly pulling him forward towards impressive scientific achievements.
It is especially pleasing that the director did not fall into the trap of overemphasized presentation of scientific work, deriving theories that astonished the university establishment. It would unequivocally bring monotony to the plot, distract the audience and slip into the framework of a sterile documentary. On the other hand, the skilled director felt the right moment to spice up his life story with marital quarrels, which was done in moderation, without sensationalism, and which is a feature of American achievements of similar content.
Casting was crucial here. Numerous production teams have made a great choice, at least when it comes to the main characters. Eddie Redmayne is fascinating in the title role because such a credible performance of a man going through an incredible physical transformation has not been seen for a long time. Surely this role is the pinnacle of his career so far (an Oscar would be just the icing on the cake). Felicity Jones is no less convincing, because she subtly immortalized her caring wife and dedicated mother Jane, full of understanding and warm words of support for her husband, that it simply seems unreal when viewed from today’s perspective.
David Thewlis also looks convincing as an actor, as a professor who immediately sensed the potential of young Stephen, and I must not omit the solid performance of Charlie Cox (Charlie Cox), despite the fact that the charming music teacher Jonathan appears only in the second part. film. What is worth emphasizing is the excellent musical background. Jóhann Jóhannsson, I get the impression, has managed to combine a wide range of emotions into inspiringly composed arrangements that will leave few indifferent.
I am of the opinion that this is an excellent so-called biographical film, primarily due to the exceptional acting achievements of the main protagonists. Of course, the top director shares almost equal merits, because Marsh expertly transferred his many years of experience in the production of documentaries to the domain of long film, serving us a colorful biographical treat in an extremely authentic, and at the same time very fun way. Magical, inspiring and above all watchable.