Nine times out of ten, In the midst of awards season, Movie-makers hit us with one fat film that chronicles the life and growth of a truly great (or in The Iron Lady’s case, questionably insane) public figure. Often with a big, bull-horned A-Lister charging for best actor. This time around, however, things are a little different. Our story focuses on a scientist. Our performer is a young British singer/model/actor hybrid with few feature films to his name. But, that scientist is Stephen Hawking; a name not only internationally recognised, but respected, admired and revered worldwide.
Based on Jane Wilde’s autobiography, James Marsh’s film is a spellbinding story of human triumph through adversity. Surely that has to be more profound than the usual US-friendly glamorisation of British Monarchy (or worse, politics), right? The answer is, quite simply, yes. Three times over.
Sure, the first act is a spiffing sensationalist portrait of Cambridge culture, baiting hooks for The Academy early on, before the film really bites. The thing is, when it does bite, it bites hard, and the whole endeavour quickly blossoms into something beautiful.
Part romance, part tragedy, part documentary and entirely humanist throughout, Marsh’s moving movie is utterly compelling. This is a story of passion, positivity and purpose; not only a portrait of a great man (played by a man so convincing, he could very well be said great man), but a slice of life that speaks anyone who’s ever had a dream, mission, or a goal.
Jane Wilde’s story is tenderly told and immaculately performed and Marsh balances his film so beautifully, that it’s always uplifting and never, ever, depressing. The film is literally alive with forward-thinking drive and ethereal comic energy. The flame in Eddie Redmayne’s eyes burns equally bright as he fights his physical demons as it does when he fires out a well-timed facetious comment.
This is a story of a man who lost all control of his body, but never lost his spirit. It’s probably the most inspiring movie you’ll see this month and, amidst all its beauty lies only one real sadness: and that’s that Redmayne’s luminous energy distracts us from the nuanced marvel that is Felicity Jones. Yes, both of these performances are as fine as the film itself.