Director: James Marsh
This tasteful, tear-ridden and terribly British biopic of scientist Stephen Hawking is sadly uneven.
Despite some Oscar worthy acting this brief history of his life is too thinly stretched with the latter half not matching the emotional power of the first.
Prodigiously clever student Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) is at Cambridge University; cycling and studying for his PhD.
He meets the arty, angelic Jane (Felicity Jones) and they enjoy a picture postcard courtship amid the dreaming spires.
It’s an impressively physical performance by Eddie Redmayne and Jones is as excellent as always, great support is offered by David Thewlis as kindly don Dennis and Harry Lloyd as Hawking’s best friend Brian.
His growing clumsiness leads to a collapse and in hospital he is diagnosed with motor neurone disease.
While his mind stays sharp he will lose control of his muscles which will gradually waste away through lack of use.
He is given two years to live.
Moving you to tears with the sort of stiff upper-lip that built the British Empire, Jane refuses Stephen’s requests to leave.
They marry and as walking sticks give way to wheelchairs, his scientific career goes supernova.
Jane is poorly served; transforming abruptly from loving wife to challenged carer, signalling a sea change in their relationship.
However science and the story’s emotional momentum is abandoned for soap opera as the focus moves to marital infidelity and his growing international celebrity.
Meanwhile although we’re left to wonder how years after his terminal diagnosis Hawking is still alive at 72 as the careless script, happy to ponder the scale of the universe, never alludes to that particular mystery.
Nor are we close to knowing whether he’ll ever establish his unified theory of life, the universe and everything.
If only it had ended in physics not platitudes this could have been one of the films of the year.