The Theory of Everything written by Anthony McCarten, directed by James Marsh (Working Title, StudioCanal, Focus Features, Universal Pictures, PG-13, 123 min)

Starring Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones.


What does a circle represent for you? With no right or wrong answer, the responses could vary drastically. Some might think about the lack of a flat surface. They would reason a circle must be in constant motion, rolling wherever it might go. Others might consider a circle to be inherently equal; by definition, a circle possesses identical distance from any point on the perimeter to the center of the circle.

For others, a circle represents completion, the holistic encompassing nature of life. In theory, a circle could be everything.

The Central Relationship

The Theory of Everything explores the committed-but-complicated relationship of Jane (Felicity Jones) and Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne). Beginning during Stephen’s post-graduate years at Cambridge University, the film explores the beginning of the pair’s relationship in juxtaposition with the deterioration of Stephen’s health.

While the romance buds and Stephen’s ideas surrounding physics and black holes emerge, his control over his body depreciates. It starts with skittish hands and loss of balance but quickly moves to an inability to perform basic motor functions.

With a diagnosis of only a couple years left to live, Stephen resolves to complete as much of his work as possible before he dies, even if it means cutting Jane out of the equation.

Nevertheless, Jane remains a determined individual and marriage soon materializes.

In standard bioipic format, the rest of the story unveils the intriguing life of Jane and Stephen Hawking into senescence.

All about the Award

While the content itself is somewhat limited—it is, after all, biography—the performance of Eddie Redmayne steals the show. Given a challenging subject, Redmayne provides a pitch-perfect performance. But his acting raises an intriguing question, even if his Academy Award is well deserved.

Is a precise representation a better performance than a more subtle but truly created character? I’m not sure if I have an answer to this question, but it’s interesting to consider. Redmayne offers an engaging physical performance, but it is mimicry. Is it better to create afresh?

It seems to me that both sides of the coin are equally valid.

The Center

And The Theory of Everything functions due to the performances within. The cinematography lays it on a little thick, continuously presenting circular images to remind the viewer of the concept of holism and completeness, whether the swirl of cream in coffee, the pattern of a dress, the movement of a dance, the shape of a window, the ascent of a staircase or the patterns of a wheelchair. Circles abound.

And that’s the point, the viewer needs to consider everything. What is life but a collection of experiences bound together at equal distance from a singular point of view?

Verdict: 3.5 out of 5

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