The Theory of Everything

The next stop on my Oscar Movie Train was The Theory of Everything, also known as one of the most heartbreaking stories in the world.

“Heartbreaking? But he’s still alive! He’s a genius and successful and rich and inspiring others every day!” All true. But this movie made me so, so sad.

Based on the book by Stephen Hawking’s ex-wife Jane, The Theory of Everything is the story of arguably one of the smartest men of our time, his illness, and his love. Viewers are instantly thrust into Hawking’s time at Cambridge University and his first encounter with Jane; only shortly thereafter he discovers and succumbs to motor neuron disease, known to us now as ALS. The movie then takes us through his initial treatment, which he does while pursuing a PhD, coming up with his black hole theory and building a family. (The part where Stephen explains how they can conceive children despite the disease is one bright spot in a very sad story. In fact, Stephen’s sense of humor is a bright spot throughout.) As we witness his incredible academic and professional success, as well as his triumph over a seemingly impossible illness, we also witness the demise of his and Jane’s relationship, which is shown in the film as a sort of silent drifting paired with an attraction to others (on both their parts). I have to assume the real-life demise of their relationship was much more painful then what is shown, and that’s what really gets to me.

In my hopelessly romantic, optimistic and probably naïve mind, Stephen and Jane’s relationship is largely responsible for him overcoming a two-year prognosis. In the film (and I recognize that this may have been exaggerated), Stephen was ready to give up immediately after the diagnosis; it was Jane who pushed him to fight. (It was also probably their families’ money, which must have been quite substantial to sustain that level of medical expense.) It was Jane who pushed him to fight and it was Jane who was his sole caretaker for a long time, and they couldn’t even stay together. So, why did this break my heart? Why did I start crying 20 minutes into the movie, then again an hour in, and all throughout the ending? Because I was watching a woman taking care of her increasingly sick husband, giving up nearly everything about herself to improve someone else’s quality of life. Watching the mental and physical deterioration of the people you love most in the world is something I’m all too familiar with. It sits in the back of my mind as a growing fear that one day, sooner rather than later, I will have to go through it. Again.

Depressing thoughts aside, this is an incredibly good movie. I would not be surprised at all if Eddie Redmayne wins Best Actor, nor would I be surprised if the movie wins Best Picture.

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