In Review

The Theory of Everything – reviews of Hawking biopic

Eddie Redmayne 'exceptional' as physicist Stephen Hawking in inspiring highbrow tearjerker

Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking
What you need to know

British biographical drama The Theory of Everything has opened in UK cinemas. The film, directed by James Marsh (Man on Wire), is adapted from Jane Wilde Hawking's memoir, Travelling to Infinity, about her marriage to theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking.

Eddie Redmayne (Birdsong) and Felicity Jones star as Stephen and Jane, who meet and fall in love as students at Cambridge University. Stephen is devastated when he is diagnosed with motor-neurone disease, but the couple decide to marry and face the challenges together as he continues his ground-breaking research into the big questions of the universe. 

What the critics like

The movie is less about astrophysics and more "about the quantum mechanics of human relationships under pressure", says Kate Muir in The Times. Redmayne gives an exceptional performance, managing to radiate Hawking's famous "rock-star" charm and dry wit with just an eyebrow and a twitch of his lips.

This compassionate and inspiring look at an extraordinary life is "anchored by two of the best performances of the year", says Helena O'Hara in Empire. And with so many movie marriages barely sketched, it's inspiring to see a deeply-felt commitment that proved crucial in unlocking some of the secrets of the universe.

The film "transcends the pitfalls of the typical biopic" with lightness and inventiveness, says Geoffrey MacNab in The Independent. Marsh has somehow made a highbrow tearjerker about the life and times of a Cambridge physicist - and that itself is an achievement.

What they don't like

The script is a thing of restraint and tact and tastefulness, but it "does leave rather a lot of questions unraised, let alone answered", says Tim Robey in the Daily Telegraph. And while Redmayne's performance is everything you could ask for, Jones sometimes feels stuck in the limiting role of a nice, decent woman trying her best, rather than a character with her own fully imagined inner life.

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