3 Stars – Thoughtful
Stephen Hawking is indeed brilliant. During the last 50 years he has opened the scientific Pandora’s Box to create an understanding of the cosmic birth of the universe and added the term “Big Bang Theory” to our lexicon. Equally remarkable, he has become the poster child for surviving ALS, better known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” Given that the average life expectancy for anyone with this crippling disease is two years, Hawking who is now 72 years old came down with the first symptoms when he was only 21. All of his great works were conceived and written while in a wheelchair and for most of his life he has been unable to speak.
The Theory of Everything is based on the book Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen , written by his first wife, Jane Hawking, to whom he was married for 30 years. Jane met Stephen at the beginning of his disease and nursed him through much of his career. The film gives a glimpse of what brought them together and what eventually caused their separation. Eddie Redmayne brilliantly plays Stephen Hawking in the film, giving an Oscar-nominating performance that is quite different from his singing role as Marius in Les Misérables. Felicity Jones brings great compassion to the role of Jane Hawking.
This story counterbalances the lives of Jane and Stephen giving an intimate look at two people who face insurmountable obstacles in their daily caring for one another. Stephen races against time, not only trying to define it but giving voice to his thoughts before the disease takes its menacing toll and ends his life on earth.
Hawking defines the world in mathematical terms, viewing life as a calculation and holding it in highest value. A self-avowed atheist, he married a woman who was a devout member of the Church of England and lived out her Christian beliefs in the Anglican tradition. The interplay of their dialogue showed a respect for one another, including Stephen’s gratuitous play to his wife that he “was trying to understand the mind of God.”
Sometimes a great capacity to understand life in one arena is mirrored with a shallow understanding in another. Hawking is portrayed as having the ability to explore the physical universe in remarkable terms, but he has a difficult time computing the power of love, or a loving force and creator. He might be able to articulate the formulation of the physical world from its inception, but he doesn’t grapple with the question that our human consciousness might not be the most evolved form that exists in the entire universe. To do so would have to open himself up to questions he cannot calculate.
Discussion for those who have seen this film:
- To limit our life to mathematical calculations or chemical reactions however intelligent is to limit what most human beings enjoy most, love, relationships, compassion and caring. Why do you think some people limit their existence?
- The deep commitment that Jane has for Stephen gave him the strength not only of a partner, but strength of will. Have you ever experienced that level of commitment for another person, or from another person? How did it change your life?
- Our understanding of the relativity of time changed our sense of this fourth dimension. What do you think will be the effect on humanity if we are ever able to control time? What do you think the effect of time’s ability to limit us has on human choice and experience?