Eddie Redmayne deservedly picked up awards galore, including an Oscar, for his role as astrophysicist Stephen Hawking in this stirring biopic.
However, co-star Felicity Jones warrants equal praise for her fiercely tender portrayal of Jane Wilde, the arts student who became Hawking’s first wife and whose tenacity and will arguably kept him alive in the years after he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease at the age of 21 and given just two years to live.
Redmayne’s astonishing physical transformation to depict the ravages of the disease is genuinely remarkable. To prepare for the role, he rigorously trained his body so that he could hold himself in the contorted positions required to portray the progression of the illness. It’s a striking technical feat.
The subtler emotional transformations Redmayne and Jones display over the course of their characters’ embattled marriage are equally impressive.
By contrast, the work behind the camera is solid rather than spectacular, with director James Marsh doing a fine job of re-creating the look and feel of 1960s-80s Cambridge, while Anthony McCarten’s script – based on Wilde’s memoir, Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen – deftly conveys Hawking’s scientific breakthroughs without tangling the viewer in equations.
The film’s prime focus, however, is appropriately on the human story, making this movie less about the workings of the universe than the workings of a remarkable marriage.