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The Theory of Everything

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Last week, I went to see the Theory of Everything in the theater.   For those of us who are hopeless romantics, we cannot help but be drawn to the film by its previews and commercials. The publicists knew how to hit that dream a little dream spot by displaying vivid images of young Jane and Stephen, played by Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne.  They looked fanciful into each others eyes and glared up at the sky, hand-in-hand, mesmerized by the crystal fireworks. Though the previews foreshadowed the fight that Stephen Hawking had ahead of him and gave a tint of sadness, I could not help but be intrigued by the magic this film seemed to promise.

The film follows Steven Hawking starting off as a young, hopeful and promising student of science at Cambridge falling hopelessly for a fellow student Jane. Very quickly afterwards however, he falls right on his face, literally. He is taken immediately to the hospital where after some tests, his doctor gives him the diagnosis of ALS. The news of course is earth shattering, especially when told that he was going to atrophy and more or less wither away. He was also told that he had two years to live.

Out of all the magical allusions conjured up by the commercials of this film, what prompted me to recommend this film on a girls night out with my friend was not only the love at first sight notion between Stephen and Jane, but Jane’s courage and patience of dealing with this diagnosis.

In the traditional wedding ceremony, the bride and the groom are put in a position where they have to answer the eminent question: “do you take this man or woman to be your lawful wedded wife or husband…in sickness and in health?” I wonder from time to time if any couples about to be married or when they are standing at the alter ponder this question at all. Do they fully understand the depth of this question and how heart-opening it is? What do these couples envision sickness to be? Do they expect that it could go beyond the flu? Do they understand that it could possibly mean mental illness? Is the question dismissed while they are in the moment as something to file in the back of one’s head for later, or to never think of at all unless forced to? It could be years before I have to deal with this, one may think, or even better, maybe I’ll go quickly before my partner does…

What about those that are faced with the sickness of their partner before those vows are made? Before the promise to marry is even made? What about soon after a connection is made on the first or second date? Such was the case for Jane Wilde.

The story of Stephen and Jane is not just real but continues to be told today as they are both still alive. The movie is based on Jane’s second memoir written on her relationship and experience with Stephen. According to historyvshollywood.com, both Stephen and Jane remarked that the story the film told was broadly true. They have both met the actors that portrayed their heroism and they both gave the film a thumbs up.

Since the majority of the events shown in The Theory of Everything were mostly true, there’s not much of a need to do a comparison to the real story. Jane discovered Stephen’s diagnosis of ALS shortly after they met, however, it did not stop her from desiring to get closer to him. In a documentary about Stephen Hawking’s life, Jane said, “He was eccentric. I was really drawn to his very wide smile and his beautiful grey eyes, and I think that's what made me fall in love with him.” What followed afterwards was a wedding and three children.

The movie follows the marriage of Stephen and Jane thoughout their thirty year marriage.   You see Jane’s strength and courage tested to the max and her endurance above reproach. We see her taking on the challenges that come with caring for someone with a degenerative disease in stride. Scenes such as surprising Stephen with an electric wheelchair and feeding him his breakfast are heart warming, but Jane runs into other challenges. She pleads with Stephen in allowing her to hire professional help which he doesn’t feel comfortable doing, then finds herself falling for their friend Jonathan who spent a lot of time with the couple and their children to provide the assistance that was needed.

I did not know the true story of Stephen and Jane before I saw this movie, as a matter of fact, I never heard of Stephen Hawking before. Therefore, I was mislead to believe all the way till the near end that this was not a happily ever after story where true love conquers all challenges and prevails, I was also expecting Stephen to die. But that is not what happens.

Stephen ends up leaving Jane for his nurse and Jane ends up being with Jonathan.   For a Hollywood film, I will say that I am indeed surprised that they allowed this to happen in a movie. Who wants to see the story of a woman who falls in love with a scientist who is assumed to die at any moment, have her make all these sacrifices, give birth to three children and have him leave her at the end like that? As unpleasant as that scene was, I appreciated it, because that is what really happened.

Stephen Hawking is one of the most wildly known physicists of his time and is mostly known for his book A Brief History of Time. He was diagnosed with ALS at the young age of 21 in 1963. His doctor told him he had two years to live, but Stephen Hawking is very much alive today—sixty years later. I have no doubt that the love and care Jane gave him, along with his determination to make a breakthrough in science has kept his body and spirit alive all these years. His disability which went as far as not being able to walk or use his hands, but also unable to talk, has not stopped him. He continued to work, and write and do interviews by communicating with a sensor activated by a muscle in his cheek. He puts us unproductive people who can easily walk, talk and pick up our forks to shame.

In his own words, he says:

“The victim should have the right to end his life, if he wants. But I think it would be a great mistake. However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there's life, there is hope”

As for Jane, she is still married to Jonathan, living in England and is a professor of Romance Languages. She wrote two books, Travelling to Infinity – My Life with Stephen in 2008 and Music to Move the Stars: A Life with Stephen in which The Theory of Everything was based on.

I found this movie to be inspiring and a true testament of love. I applaud the producers for staying as close to the story as they did and the acting by Redmayne and Jones to be exceptional. The film is indeed a tearjerker and heart-wrenching but by the end, for you sensitive types, I guarantee you will be crying the happy tears.

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To your health!

Zoe

 

 

 

 

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