The Theory of Everything
Christian Movie Review
I once met Stephen Hawking (just a greeting), and I accidentally parked in his parking spot when he came to attend a convention for theoretical physicists (though, don’t worry, I realized my mistake and moved my vehicle before he arrived).
But this film is not about Kevin Ott accidentally parking in Stephen Hawking’s parking space (thank God).
The film’s plot could be summed up with this question:
What happens when an intelligent Cambridge student named Jane — a woman studying medieval poetry who happens to be a strong, articulate Christian — meets another intelligent Cambridge student name Stephen — a man studying physics and cosmology who happens to be an atheist?
Well, you get the love of story of the famous physicist Stephen Hawking (played by Eddie Redmayne) and his determined, courageous wife Jane (played by Felicity Jones). It’s a fascinating movie that looks at the plight of a brilliant man stricken with a motor neuron disease. Besides watching Hawking’s career develop, we see how love, marriage, faith, and parenting survives (or tries desperately to) in that framework.
Beneath all of that, there is a semi-subtle debate between atheism and the belief in God — though it is hardly the primary focus of the film. These exchanges are usually witty and generally respectful to both sides. For example, when Jane asks Stephen what cosmology is, he replies, “It’s religion for intelligent atheists.” Another line in the film has Jane give a witty, intelligent comeback to Stephen’s criticism of faith in God — though it’s too involved to repeat here. (You’ll just have to see the film.)
Parental Guidance Issues at a Glance…
Sexual Content/Nudity: Hawking is asked about his disease and if it inhibits his ability to have sex with his wife. Hawking and his wife kiss in bed, though the camera cuts away before anything happens. Although no sex scenes are shown, two extramarital affairs are portrayed/implied between characters. A nurse shows the pages of a Penthouse magazine to Hawking, and a woman’s breast is seen briefly from the side.
Violence/Gore: Hawking, as his disease develops, falls and slams his head on pavement. As doctors examine him, we see a close-up of a needle being pushed into his skin. Doctors prepare him for surgery, and just before the knife cuts into him, the camera cuts away.
Language: Mild language. A few d-words. God’s name is misused a few times.
Alcohol/Drug/Smoking Content: Characters drink beer in a pub.
Frightening/Intense Content: The medical scenes involving needles and scalpels might make some queasy.
(Review continues below)
Please Support Our Affiliates!
Entertainment Value and Film Craft
It’s a superbly constructed, deeply empathetic film. It brings you right into all of the emotional nuances of Stephen and Jane Hawking’s triumphs and defeats. Eddie Redmayne will likely win an Oscar — though the whole thing is strangely and perhaps sadly ironic: he had to use intense concentration and precise control over every muscle in his body in order to convincingly portray a man who had no control over the muscles in his body because of a motor neuron disease.
But I especially loved the way Redmayne portrayed Hawking’s cheerfulness and wily humor.
Felicity Jones was also amazing. The two together moved me deeply — especially the scene where Stephen announces he’s going to America, and we see both his and Jane’s tormented emotional reaction. My eyes were not dry for that scene, I’ll confess.
Much of the film takes place in Cambridge University in England, one of the most beautiful campuses in the world. This alone made me want to see the film (I love England). In general, the setting of the film was rich and textured, with close-ups and lighting that made the emotional points of the story electrifying.
This film is rather complicated in this department. Stephen Hawking is an atheist, and his viewpoints are succinctly summarized in the film, and because he is the film’s central subject, the reasoning behind his atheistic worldview is given priority.
That being said, his wife Jane is a strong Christian, an intelligent Cambridge-educated scholar, and a very strong woman who stands up for what she believes and does not shrink back from disagreeing with Hawking. The film treats her dedication to her faith, and the challenges and sadness that a Christian would feel in that situation, with dignity; although, to be fair to the film, its focus is really not the atheism vs. God debate. All of that surfaces more in the periphery. The film just doesn’t have the time to get into all of that in great detail.
Case in point: the specific reasons that an intelligent Christian like the Cambridge-educated Jane — or the Oxford professor C.S. Lewis, for example — might give to defend their belief in God are not pursued (to my disappointment). In some scenes it feels a little one-sided. The credo of atheism is given much of the limelight whenever the debate surfaces in the plot line.
Also, the film does not touch on the crisis occurring in cosmology right now after recent discoveries suggest that Earth’s position in the universe has much more significance than any scientist in our modern age would have predicted. The film just didn’t have time to look at current events in cosmology, other than mentioning Hawking’s ultimate goal (which he is still pursuing today) of finding the theory of everything, the universal equation that unites the feuding families of general relativity and quantum mechanics.
As far the film’s moral framework, it’s murky. In the film both Stephen and Jane have affairs that eventually split up the marriage. This, like Stephen’s physical suffering, is hard to watch. It’s difficult to watch their love collapse under the weight of the pressures that were upon them both. These elements make it a heavy film — though, without giving away spoilers — those darker things don’t have the last word in the movie. There is also much joy and a remarkable tenderness in this film.
While the film respects Jane’s Christianity, it also seems to favor and applaud with a standing ovation Hawking’s atheism, and it creates this perception that the vast majority of cosmologists and physicists are secular atheists. After seeing the documentary film The Principle, I now know that there are more Christians in the highest levels of cosmology and physics than I realized. I also know that there is a prejudice in the scientific community that, at times, has refused to even consider legitimate theories that might suggest any other conclusion than secular atheism.
But, ultimately, that debate is not the centerpiece of the film. The deeply nuanced, inspiring, determined 26-year marriage of Stephen and Jane Hawking is the primary concern. And, despite the more tragic turns in their relationship, there is remarkable tenderness and love in this story. I would watch it again because of that.
And, frankly, it was refreshing to watch a movie where Christians are not portrayed in terrible ways. In The Theory of Everything we get a Christian character who really becomes a hero in the film because she is living what she believes and walking the walk: she’s exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit, she’s forgiving and merciful, and she does her best to love Stephen Hawking and help him cope with his devastating disease.
If you are planning on seeing a movie soon, please consider purchasing your tickets online through our affiliate link above with Fandango, a high-quality vendor for online movie tickets. This will allow us to keep our site online and continue providing you with quality reviews.