I love this time of year, new beginnings and resolutions may be some people’s great outlooks but I happily accept the influx of heavyweight movies lining up for award ceremony recognition. This is one of those movies. A biopic of one of the most famous male icons is developed through touching and beautiful storytelling led by two tour de force performances.
This film journeys from 60’s Cambridge to detail the relationship between physicist Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and literary student Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones). It tells of their growing love and togetherness, strongly shown as Hawking is diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease leaving him declining in abilities and putting Jane front and centre as strong caring wife and mother as Stephen continues with his scientific theories.
By far this is the sentimental piece of the possible nomination crowd, the romantic biographical stance feels like the ’12 Years A Slave’ type and so that bodes well for this James Marsh directed story. On the whole, the romance is never sickly and forced, at least shared with Stephen and Jane it’s developed fantastically. The relationship feels so real and chemistry between the two actors is precise and authentic that you honestly believe you’re watching people and not stars doing their job.
If you want to see an emotional tale that not only feels but looks beautiful then this is the one for you. Cambridge couldn’t be more of a perfect English setting to backdrop the coming together of this strong willed minds and Benoit Delhomme captures the posh stunning landscape of the area in a great way that compliments the tone of the film really well. In general this film is softly felt, the look is not glowing but kind of rounded in the edges, making that romantic side of things more pronounced and most of the time this works to its benefit.
There’s creative and lovely imagery to be found in relations of subject and character. As Stephen begins his thoughts on black holes and the start of life, milk in his coffee begins to dance reflecting the vision of rolling black holes, once again as he’s weaker and relying on Jane to help him pull a jumper on his determined character makes him see a light-bulb moment that aids his theory. This is shown through the fireplace manifesting as swirling stars and burning orange mirroring space and the spark setting off in Stephen’s mind. The end cycling back through past events and stopping back on the young Jane and Stephen is also a wonderful moment in helping us relate to Hawking’s poetic yet scientific comment on there being no boundaries in life.
It has a good dose of humour that stops the film from being as overbearingly sentimental as it may otherwise have been. The smart and witty remarks from Stephen are brilliant and the way his disability is spoken of is funny, not taking the mick but lovingly poking fun at a man who can clearly take it. This humourous shine distracts just enough from the clear audible shoving of music to try and make you well up.
I think the main problem the film has are in a few certain moments where it pushes you to feel a specific way. Flaws laying in wishy washy manipulation aren’t to be overlooked and perhaps without the rising orchestral score being ever present, the emotion wouldn’t be as strong and tears wouldn’t be shed. The Wagner show for instance is a tad too dramatically done to but some backing to Stephen’s predicament, so too in a stained glass window magically glowing with sunlight as two characters kiss, it’s a little bit manufactured making it feel like a movie and losing the amazing reality Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne are bringing to the picture.
Eddie Redmayne is in one word – outstanding. There’s no shadow of a doubt that he’ll be nominated and though I haven’t seen all of the other possible Oscar nods for lead actor, I’d agree with him winning. The immersion into this intelligent, funny man and the shocking heartbreaking disease that takes over his and Jane’s lives are so lovingly done, it’s like Stephen Hawking is on screen and not Redmayne. The twitches and crooked movements, the wide smile and the general absorbing presence he exudes make it one of the best male performances I’ve seen in a long time. Felicity Jones should also get nominated as she brings a forceful heroine onto the screens, she’s at first delicate and then tired but strong. It’s clear to see the way she feels from just the look in her eyes, she’s exhausted and needs someone else, Jones polishes the loving yet possibly lost wife with magnificence.
Aside from a handful of twee moments, this is a phenomenal biopic with pristine direction, hair, make up and costume and two magnetic and marvelous lead performances that’s it’s paved the way for 2015 very well indeed.