What starts out as a compelling look into one’s personal struggle with Lou Gehrig’s disease devolves into a messy soap opera devoid of subjective perspective. More concerned with love lost and gained than how one of history’s smartest men managed to remain one of history’s smartest men, The Theory of Everything supplants satisfactory resolution with an out-pouring of tears and mutual understanding.
The story begins firmly set within the mind of Main Character Stephen Hawking (the well-deserved Academy Award winning Eddie Redmayne). We see what it feels like to slowly lose our ability to walk, to eat and to talk. We are Stephen. But we lose that emotional connection the moment he makes his Hawking Radiation discovery and consequently, lose our empathy with the film’s remaining events.
Instead, the filmmakers focus their attention on Steadfast Jane (Felicity Jones) and her budding romance with Jonathan Jones (Charlie Cox, the bastard who tried that same slimy “I’m just a friend” worm technique in Boardwalk Empire). Romantic triangles are triangulated and interest in Hawking’s discoveries wane. Instead of wondering how he manages to maintain focus long enough to write a book, we wonder how he manages to maintain focus long enough to keep it up. With the two principal characters split, the primary relationship in the story fractures, taking with it any meaningful connection with the story’s primary argument (God vs. science).
We do return for a split second round-up during Stephen’s final presentation and the scene where he grants Jane the notion of God (signifying a Main Character Resolve of Change), but by then our attachment, so damaged by lack of attention, fails to solidify the argument. We kinda-sorta buy into Stephen’s change, but really, we know he still doesn’t believe.
Worth the price of admission if for nothing else than Redmayne’s stunning performance, The Theory of Everything stands as a perfect example of what happens when you fail to completely finish the arugment you began in the first Act.