One of my favorite movies is A Beautiful Mind directed by Ron Howard, starring Russell Crowe, Ed Harris, and Jennifer Connelly. It tells the story of mathematician and economist John Nash. Nash is a genius, but he suffers from schizophrenia. With the support of his wife and friends, he learns to work through his schizophrenia and goes on to win the Nobel Prize in economics.
There are several things I love about this movie. It’s beautifully done, from the acting to the cinematography to the music, but I also love the mathematical elements because I’m a nerd. I love nothing more than the intersection of art and science found in a good movie about something science-y. A Beautiful Mind is one of those films. James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything is another.
The Theory of Everything is about renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, focusing on his scientific breakthroughs in cosmology, his relationship with his first wife Jane, and the progression of his motor neuron disease. The movie begins with Hawking’s time at Cambridge where he met Jane. It’s shortly after they begin seeing each other that Hawking is diagnosed with his disease and only expected to live for two more years. Despite Hawking’s attempt to distance himself from his friends, Jane is determined that they will beat this disease together and the two are married in 1965.
The next decades of their life together include Hawking getting his Ph.D., three children, and years of dedicated care giving. Jane serves as a full-time caregiver as Hawking’s muscles deteriorate. Much like Nash’s wife’s care and support, Jane does so much for Hawking, and it’s a testament to a beautiful relationship between the two. Though it is far from easy. Jane struggles to work on her own Ph.D. while taking care of three children and Stephen as his career and popularity grows. Eventually, Stephen and Jane are forced to accept help due to his deteriorating state. Help comes in the form of a church musician who befriends the entire family while growing particularly fond of Jane, and a nurse who grows particularly fond of Stephen.
Eventually, Jane and Stephen separate, which is sad after you invest in their relationship, but it is the story of what happens, and both Jane and Stephen seem to understand what the other needs. The end of the movie still resolves their story nicely, as Hawking invites Jane and their three children with him when he meets the Queen of England. It may not be as beautiful as Nash’s story, where his wife stands by his side through everything and in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech thanks only her, but it is still a good story. Stephen and Jane went through so much together, more than they did with their other spouses. They worked through his disease as his condition worsened, she helped him with his work, and they created three children. That last fact is the one Hawking chooses to highlight at the end of the movie. Together they made something beautiful, so theirs is a beautiful story.
The relationship between Jane and Stephen really propels the movie forward. It is heart-wrenching to watch one of the most brilliant men of our generation slowly lose control of all his muscles, but Jane’s care and Stephen’s wit offer moments of tenderness and humor. The acting job of Felicity Jones (Jane) and Eddie Redmayne (Stephen) are phenomenal, especially Redmayne. Redmayne captures Hawking’s movements perfectly as his disease progresses, and even when Hawking’s only possible expressions are slight movements, Redmayne fills his face with emotion. It’s truly amazing.
As a nerd, or really anyone interested in academic or scientific concepts, and as a romantic who loves a good love story, I think The Theory of Everything was a great movie, despite the fact that their marriage ended. The Theory of Everything tells a remarkable story about a remarkable man and woman. Stephen Hawking did the impossible. Now aged 72, he is decades older than the doctors ever expected him to live. He wrote his book A Brief History of Time while in the thrall of his disease, and he traveled extensively. He never would have been able to achieve so much for the science world if he hadn’t had Jane’s love, support, and care. He may not have even made it past those two years. She saved him, and the movie tells their remarkable story. The acting is amazing, definitely Oscar-worthy, and the film is well done. I can’t wait for it to come out on DVD so I can watch it again.