”Where there is life, there is hope.”
This is a climactic line in “The Theory of Everything,” an adaptation of Jane Hawking’s memoir “Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen.” Jane is, of course, the wife of legendary theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking. It is interesting that in that way the movie is not so much about Stephen but Jane. My question is that if Jane wasn’t in Stephen’s life, and if she wasn’t a person of faith, would he have had a life at all?
Hawking spends much of the film trying to figure out the biggest questions in the universe. He is a man with many limits setting out to prove that that world actually has no bounds, i.e. no God. Which leads to the trouble with the film, at the beginning of the story I wasn’t familiar with what made Stephen Hawking who he is today and expected through seeing his life and paralysis depicted on screen I would find out, but by the end of the film I still had no idea who Hawking was or what he actually believed. What’s interesting, though, is that there is never a time when you don’t know what Jane believes.
This film, after all, really is about Jane and the life she led alongside this prolific mind. We see her transform from a glowing, sultry co-ed into a drained, frustrated, messy wife and mother as she shoulders the responsibility of being the care giver of Stephen and their three kids. We see her, in one telling scene, frustratingly explain to a fellow church goer what Stephen believes about the nature of God and the universe.
The conflict she deals with on what must be a daily basis gleans through a trembling, forced voice and jerky hand gestures as she rushes teaching about the laws of relativity and quantum theory. Her beliefs must come into question constantly in this household, so much so that she must, next to Stephen, feel silly or even less intelligent at times. What we know, though, is that Jane is also a Phd., a bit of information delivered in the closing text of the film.
We only get a few scattered scenes of Jane studying, but we never see a graduation, we never hear her recite the Spanish literature she studied. Nor do we really see Jane interact with her children that much (they spend most of the movie as toddlers and infants). Jane’s role in this story is not of a doctor or a mother, her role is the hope and the life in Stephen’s life. She marries Stephen after they discover his aliment. She makes sacrifice after sacrifice so that he has the best life possible. She even chooses at one point to make both of their lives more difficult in order to save his. She loves, sacrifices, and serves in a way that can only be described as Godly.
The contrast between Jane and Stephen is starkest when Stephen is in pursuit of his theories of the origins of the universe. His quest is to prove the random, unpredictable, godless nature of the world. This may be fitting for someone whose infinite intelligence could never have predicted his degenerative disease. This theory of unpredictability is sought after, though, around a life filled with relationships that in film standards are nothing but predictable.
The minute Jane walks into her local church to join the choir to see it is led by a young, dreamy Hugh Grant type, the audience knows they will surely fall in love. A busty, seductive fire-haired speech pathologist enters the picture and we know it is only a matter of time before Stephen falls for her. All of the quantum theorizing in the world cannot disprove the laws of human attraction apparently.
By the end of the film, much like in the research of Hawking, there are more questions than answers. How did this world come to be? Is there an equation that bonds the entire universe together? I still don’t know by the end if Stephen believes there could be a God, but I do know that if it wasn’t for the God in Jane we may never have had “A Brief History of Time.” This is a film worth watching and questions that are worth engaging. Also, if I could predict an upcoming event in the universe it would be that both Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne will be getting some extra attention come February.