All or Nothing

vlcsnap-2014-12-30-23h57m58s51 The Theory of Everything is tear-jerking Oscar-bait, but it`s not just tear-jerking Oscar-bait.

There’s a moment early in The Theory of Everything when young Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) is at a formal ball with fellow Cambridge student Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones), and under the dance`s UV light the men`s whites glow brighter than the girls`dresses. He asks her if she knows the reason (it`s because of the flourescents in Tide washing powder). Before he gives that answer, though, Jane leans over and laughingly, almost breathlessly, asks “Why?” It’s a little moment, but Jones’ delivery is so natural, it’s easy to believe that this young girl is falling in love with this young man, which of course she is, and while Redmayne’s superb performance is getting praise and talk of an Oscar, it’s worth remembering that the film belongs to Jones as much as to him.

vlcsnap-2014-12-30-23h58m37s197 Based on Jane Hawking’s memoir of her marriage to Stephen, The Theory of Everything is an exquisitely acted biopic of the world’s most famous living scientist. It covers all the expected highs and lows of Hawking’s life: his brilliant work at Cambridge in the 1960s, his diagnosis with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, his marriage, his daily struggle as his body deteriorates, the births of his children, the publication of A Brief History of Time.

At its heart it’s about Jane’s determination to make her husband’s life less difficult and support him as he becomes world-famous (even while her own academic dreams are quashed). But it’s also about her inner struggle as a Christian married to an Athiest (she’s devout; he has issues with the idea of “a celestial dictator”). Soon she finds herself drawn to the handsome, widowed choirmaster, Jonathan (Charlie Cox, very good), who becomes Stephen’s assistant/caregiver. vlcsnap-2014-12-31-00h04m57s169 There have been more dramatic love triangles, but this film is refreshingly free of histrionics, shouting matches, and general carrying-on, and I can’t help think it’s because it is a British film about a very particular subset of the English middle-class, one that always tries to keep a stiff upper lip. While the film is definitely a love story (and a very good one), it is also a nostalgic celebration of cracking Sunday roasts, homemade elderflower wine, real ale, cricket jumpers, herringbone jackets, lawn parties, and croquet (the film’s credits include a “croquet consultant”).

It helps, of course, that it’s set at Cambridge, a place that in the cinema is seemingly made for nothing else except gawky young men with floppy hair and delicate girls in pretty party frocks. There`s an awful lot of tea in this film. vlcsnap-2014-12-31-00h01m46s52 Redmayne’s performance is wonderfully subtle; it is much more than a simple impersonation of Hawking, and the film serves as a reminder of what Hawking must have been like before the disease took hold. He was told he had two years to live, which perhaps made him work harder to prove his theory about the Beginning of Time, and which perhaps also compelled Jane to want to marry him (“I want us to be together for as long as we`ve got,“ she tells him). You might be reminded of Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot (which this film resembles in many ways, possessing a similar warmth and humour, as well as a certain steely resolve in its main characters). Redmayne smiles a lot, and the film`s great charm is that it leaves it to the audience to decide if that is something Hawking cannot control or if it is because he is thinking of something really funny (Hawking`s wicked sense of humour is well-known). vlcsnap-2014-12-30-23h58m48s55 Jones, likewise, is extremely good. It`s not the sort of character – long-suffering wife – that gets a lot of notice, and other actresses this season are getting all the attention (Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl; Jennifer Aniston in Cake), but it`s a careful, warm performance with a great deal of grit underneath. vlcsnap-2014-12-31-00h00m13s121 vlcsnap-2014-12-31-00h06m08s90 Others in the excellent cast include Simon McBurney as Hawking`s father, Emily Watson as Jane`s mother, David Thewlis as Hawking`s mentor at Cambridge, Maxine Peake as his nurse, and Harry Lloyd as his college friend.

My fluffcast review here:

16 thoughts on “All or Nothing

      1. Maxine Peake in The Knick?! Did I totally miss her, or are you ahead of us (If so, I’m v jealous!) Good to see Me Peake spreading her wings – she’s outstanding. It’s a while since I’ve seen Rev, but is that the character whose always dashing off to the restaurants? (“We must go – Heston’s expecting us at 1!”) He’s supposedly based on the new Archbishop of Canterbury. I think he’s so funny; highly ambitious! And I like the sound of a film with lots of tea! The Oscar mob love posh English; disability, adversity in the face of…I can see it doing well, but you’re right, Jones deserves attention too. I’d previously dismissed Redmayne as posh/gorgeous bit of eye candy, but clearly he’s more.

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  1. I love Maxine Peake, and Thewlis is normally excellent, when he can calm down. Redmayne is set to become the new Jeremy irons, and I am sure that everything else is just spot-on.
    But I am stifling a yawn. I can see them collecting the Oscars already. More Cambridge, more upper-middle class, more caring mentors, and damp-eyed audiences.
    Maybe it’s just me Niall, but it all leaves me cold. Great observations by you though!
    Cheers mate. Pete.


    1. yes, it is all very Bridesheady or Chariots of Fire at times, and who knows, maybe Cambridge is really like this. But it’s a superbly acted film. The director, James Marsh, made the documentary Man on Wire


  2. Actually, it would have been a good thing if you were ahead of us, as it’d mean we’d have a new series soon…I’m assuming another series is in the pipeline? I love Clive Owen; myself and a friend used to watch him in Chancer, over 20 years ago, and had major crushes. Even then you could tell he should be a star. And it’s remarkable how little he’s aged! (Portrait in the attic, deffo!)

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    1. i did a thing about the Knick a few weeks ago and i picked it as my favourite TV series of 2014. as far as i know there is a second series in the works. I think all in all Clive Owen is better off by not becoming Bond (rumour is he was no.2 choice after Craig) … and Cara Seymour does sort of look like Maxine Peake 🙂

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  3. Oh yes, I remember your post now. I don’t know Cara Seymour; I’ll have to Google her. You’re probably right re Bond – it’s v lucrative but not exactly demanding, acting-wise. I wonder how long Craig will remain Bond? He’s definitely made the franchise more hip and less stale (though Sam Mendes helps!) I didn’t have a clue what Quantum Of Solace was all about though, the script made me think there’d been lots of rewrites by different people, but no one had read through to check it made sense…!

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    1. so it’s not just me who was confused by Quantum of Solace? Good. I remember watching it and being very confused and thinking ‘what’s wrong with me? I can’t follow the plot of a Bond film!?!’ I think the current film that they are making (Spectre) will be Craig’s last.


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