Sunday, 6 December 2015

The Theory Of Everything (spoilers but come on, it's been ages)

Sometimes I surprise myself. I remember starting a blog about film some years ago, and then giving up on it shortly afterwards due to lack of interest. Both my own and yours. It made sense to me that less of you would be interested in reading about what I think of various films than in reading about me slipping down the slope through Thatto Heath Park and falling on my arse.

But I didn't give up quite as quickly as I'd thought. There are 15 or 20 reviews on the clumsily named Film Musings Of A Fire Hazard, spanning a two-year period. Not all of them are any good but they were interesting to look back on. Having made a tentative return to the subject of film with last week's utterings on Mockingjay Part 2 on my regular Memoirs Of A Fire Hazard I thought I'd take another dip at it. You know? Just for my own interest if nothing else.

So finally arriving at the point the subject of this piece is The Theory Of Everything, the Oscar-hogging biopic of physics boffin and miraculous motor neurone disease survivor Professor Stephen Hawking. Emma never fancied this one, so I never got along to the cinema to see it. I had to wait until just the other day to find the time to watch it at home. Not that I'm always busy particularly, but more that there is always some sports-related material clogging up my planner which needs watching before it becomes history material fit only for Yesterday or Sky One. I'd actually recorded The Theory Of Everything a few months ago, but those Bundesliga highlights continued to take precedence until now.

The other reason I hadn't got to it if I'm totally honest is that I'd kind of been putting it off. I'm always very wary of any film dealing with the subject of disability. So often they are either a massive let down or just downright offensive. I get enough of that in the real world without escaping to it. Yet The Theory Of Everything pleasantly surprised me. It's moving without being mawkish, funny without being patronising, and clever without bamboozling the viewer.

Hawking, played by posh gong gatherer Eddie Redmayne, is perhaps best known for his research into the origins of time and the universe and well.....everything........but it is his almost 30 years of marriage to his first wife Jane that provides most of the narrative here. Lazy people like myself might have assumed that Jane, played beautifully here by Felicity Jones, got the rock out of dodge pretty quickly when the full implications of Hawkings' illness took hold. She did no such thing. Hawking was given just two years to live at the time of his diagnosis in the mid 1960's, yet is still with us some 50 years later. Jane continued to be devoted to Hawking, attending to his every need until 1990 when they eventually divorced. And that wasn't to do Hawking any favours or to show a united front in public. She genuinely loved the great man and yes.....continued to enjoy a physical relationship with him. The youngest of their children was born in 1979, over a decade after his diagnosis and way beyond the point at which his body had failed him. True, she eventually drifted in to the arms of Jonathan Hellyer (played here by Boardwalk Empire and Stardust's Charlie Cox) who she met at choir practice and who had helped with Hawking's care for years, but only after Hawking had taken a shine to his therapist Elaine (Maxine Peake). She had been hired by Jane to help with Hawking with his communication after a bout of pneumonia finally robbed him of his speech. Eventually he would develop the now distinctive speech synthesiser which led a generation to believe he is an American. British accents are available with that technology now, but the shrewd astro-physician knows a saleable trademark when he sees it and has left well enough alone.

What the film fails to explore is just how the blazes Hawking has managed to survive for so long with a disease that does for most of its unfortunate sufferers in less than two years. Perhaps medical science has not deciphered that conundrum yet, or perhaps it really is down to his indomitable spirit and ludicrous work ethic. He's just been too busy to be ill for very long over these last few years. He continues to inspire, and to be 7,000 times more capable than most folk who would offer their pity. To that end, if we really want to educate people about what can be achieved by people with disabilities we should do away with disability awareness courses and international days of disability and just get people to watch films like Inside I'm Dancing and this excellent addition to the debate.

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