NOTE: This review contains MILD spoilers.
This is a feel-good love story that’s suitable for all ages (if you need something to watch w/ the family). The film is based on the autobiography by renowned physicist Stephen Hawkings’ wife, Jane. In 1963, Oxford Ph.D. student, Stephen (Eddie Redmayne), meets pretty/approachable undergrad Jane (Felicity Jones) at a school dance. Since he’s not much of dancer, they spend most of the night talking. There is mutual interest, though Jane’s gal pal calls Stephen “odd, but clever.” We learn that Jane also wants to get a Ph.D. though she’s in the arts.
Stephen’s closest pal, and fellow physicist, Brian is played by up-and-coming Harry Lloyd (who I’ve watched in Robin Hood and Dr. Who). His role wasn’t too big, but he added touches of humor to the film. Solid character actor David Thewlis plays Stephen’s supportive advisor, Dennis Shiama.
Stephen collapses one day in the yard. A doctor tells him that he has a rare, early onset form of ALS (a condition that will weaken his body, but leave his mind intact). He doesn’t want to talk, even w/ Brian, and decides to avoid Jane. Being a concerned, Jane seeks Stephen out in his dorm. He tries to get rid of her (thinking that he’s gotten a death sentence), but she won’t have it.
Over time, they date, marry, have children, though the road is not smooth. Studying for Ph.D.s, living on a small budget, and raising a family is very challenging/stressful; my parents did it as immigrants to the US. Along with that, Stephen copes with his disease, writes a book about his black hole theory, and (slowly) makes a mark in the field on cosmology.
Before I watched this film, I didn’t even know that Hawking was British! I’m not knowledgeable about his work, but science is only a small part of this story. The focus is the love between two very mentally strong, caring, resilient, and intellectual individuals. The leads have great chemistry- they fit perfectly as a couple. (I’ve been following these actors for some years, so was glad to see them in these meaty roles.) Redmayne, who always has an innocent and likable quality, must’ve worked very hard on his physical transformation! Some critics call this type of movie “Oscar bait.” The colors are saturated, the music is very well-suited, and there is a very rosy outlook throughout the film. My friends and I liked it a lot. Stephen Hawking commented that watching this film “was like watching myself as a young man.”