Let me preface this review by stating that I have never cried so hard. Like every great love story, there’s hope, joy, struggles and heartache. Watching Eddie Redmayne portray Dr. Stephen Hawking is absolutely amazing. He had his mannerisms down pat; from the awkward smile and small twitches, to the corny sense of humor and to the facial expressions full of love, despair, determination and triumph. Harry Lloyd, of Game of Thrones fame, plays his best friend, Brian.
Stephen Hawking was a brilliant student studying for his PhD in Astrophysics. He has a small but dedicated group of friends. As his studies progress, two major life altering events occur: he meets Jane Wilde, a fellow student who is studying for her PhD in medieval Spanish poetry and the heartbreaking diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s disease. Doctors give Stephen a grim diagnosis; however, Stephen moves on, more determined than ever to finish his PhD dissertation on black holes and how they could have been a part of the creation of the universe and to go about predicting his theory, and then later on, disproving it.
Stephen’s parents try to paint a realistic portrayal of what life will be like, if Jane marries him. So young, and in love, she is determined to stay with him, even if their life together will be cut short. The doctors give Stephen between 2 to 3 years to live. Jane and Stephen get married and have a couple of children.
They say that there’s nothing as powerful as the power of love. Yet, we are all human beings and we all have moments where we struggle. We grow weary and we grow despondent. Jane becomes more of a nursemaid to Stephen than wife. With two children and a husband that continues to deteriorate as the weeks and months pass by, the stress begins to take its’ toll. Even though Dr. Hawking has achieved international acclaim as a great professor and scientist, home life is not normal. Jane struggles with her day to day activities of trying to balance being a wife and mother, while vaguely attempting to pursue her own PhD studies. Her children’s childhood suffer, she suffers and needs help. When the subject is broached, Stephen uses his sense of humor to alleviate the situation, but it is anything but funny.
The suggestion of joining a church choir to get out of the house and find something to look forward to was well intentioned by Jane’s mother. Charlie Cox, from Boardwalk Empire fame, plays Johnathan, a widower, who enjoys teaching music and leading the church choir. He becomes a part of the Hawking household. He tells Stephen he was married and understands what it is like to nurse a spouse through a lengthy illness. He himself lost his wife to leukemia. Johnathan soon becomes like the surrogate father figure to the children, often accompanying Stephen and Jane on excursions, providing physical and moral support to all the family members. It is touching to see that Johnathan truly cares about the welfare of the entire family. I picked up on the fact that there was an underlying attraction between Jane and Johnathan.
Stephen’s father suggests that Stephen take it very seriously: he needs round-the-clock care, as in terms of having a live in nurse to help out with all the medical responsibilities. Jane discovers that she is pregnant with her and Stephen’s third child. Jonathan bows out gracefully and has no wish to cause any more emotional turmoil for her or for the family.
On a trip to Bordeaux, France, Stephen suffers a horrendous lapse in health, which leads to him becoming comatose. Jane is called to the hospital and doctors give her a very grim prognosis: he might die if he is transferred back to Cambridge, England and he will never talk again. Jane, trying to be rational, states that Stephen will make it through the procedure of having a tracheotomy and that he will have all the care he needs, even if it is round the clock. Once back at home, Stephen is despondent and depressed. It is a cruel thing to have such a brilliant mind and be trapped in a body that shuts down. I found myself grabbing Kleenex by the handful; I felt sorrow for Stephen, as he wanted to prove his theory, he wanted to be able to walk and talk again like he did when he was a young chap at Cambridge University; I felt the angst of Jane, who did the best she could under the circumstances, while putting her own academic dreams aside. I felt for Jonathan, who had feelings for Jane, helped out with the family and gracefully bowed out before disgracing the family.
Help comes in the form of Elaine, a rather attractive nurse, and under her saucy and caring administration, Stephen thrives. She treated him like a man, not a sick person without hope. With the changes to technology over the years, Stephen went from using an ordinary wheelchair to an electronic wheelchair to an advanced one that included a mini screen and keyboard function. Stephen would be able to speak with everyone, via that screen and computerized voice. He writes a book; he becomes better at communication and he meets with students at universities; doing lectures and getting out there in the world, back with resilience and purpose. As he meets with various groups of students, his old university mates are in the crowd, cheering him on and his former university professor is there, supporting Stephen and cheering along with the crowd.
Jane and Stephen’s love story comes to an end; they divorce and she marries Johnathan. The three remain friends and Stephen invites Jane with him, to Buckingham Palace to meet Queen Elizabeth. And at this point, you see the flashbacks of Stephen’s life story. The flashbacks include all his research, his time at university; his meeting Jane; getting married; having children; doing research; his therapy sessions; getting out there to the public and back to his happy days at Cambridge.
Grab some Kleenex and get ready for a poignant story. And ge t ready to find The Theory of Everything across all of HBO’s platforms from now into September.