About the cosmologist Stephen Hawking and his early life in Cambridge, and his marriage to Jane Wilde played by Felicity Jones. He is struck down by motor-neurone disease and how the marriage copes with that. Jane develops a friendship with a choirmaster and there is eventual separation in the Hawking marriage. Hawking becomes world famous.
The movie starts out as another stab of the mid 20th century heritage industry courtesy of the Cambridge middle classes: chaps in tweed suits, debutantes and fusty Victorian attitudes all round. It shows the Britain of Harold McMillan which is a fashionable film obsession these days. Hawking is the very bright guy who meets arts student Jane, then he in inflicted with motor-neurone disease. I’m sure the reality of their suffering is worse than what we see in the film. Eddie Redmayne’s acting makes for uncomfortable watching and I’m not wholly convinced of the case for it to be acted, no matter how good. The focus of the film does shift towards Jane, who is all self-sacrificing stoicism. She is patronizingly told that she must be lucky to have him, she must have wondered what kind of luck it is that involves the surrender of her own personality and career. She forlornly sits in the kitchen trying to write on Spanish poetry when she gets the time. The domestic tensions are well handled and discreetly British. Hawking seems at times oblivious of the severity of the demands made on her, so we’re invited to step through a film in which what’s left unsaid tiptoes round his dreadful condition. The big problem with this movie is the same as that with Beautiful Mind, Imitation Game etc. Accept the premise that reverence is sanctified envy, then the public’s worship of the elite maths that we can’t understand looks fairly idiotic. Do we worship it because we can’t understand it? Come to think of it, we do despise what can be easily understood, don’t we? The film’s trick is to entangle this sentimentality with the heroism of Hawking’s physical sufferings and they should not be entangled. No doubt Hawking’s peers argued with his maths but in place of our understanding of it we ask science to answer questions beyond its remit. The film worships at this shrine and questioning it seems rather churlish. It’s the science version of Shadowlands about C.S. Lewis and his marriage.