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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Theory of Everything is a biopic about world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne). It's inspiring, but it doesn't shy away from exploring the indignities visited upon Hawking when he's diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease. It also deals with some mature subjects -- including marital discord, infidelity, and near-death experiences -- and has some frank conversations about sexuality (as well as hints of sex between Hawking and his wife and a glimpse of a character looking through Penthouse magazine). Characters discuss the existence of God. It's all engrossing, compelling stuff, but it might be a little mature for tweens and younger.
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What's the story?
In 1963, two significant events occur in the life of Cambridge University cosmology student Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne): He meets Jane (Felicity Jones), the woman who will become his wife and greatest supporter, and he decides that he'll study the nature of time and work to discover THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING. Then, along the way, he discovers that he's suffering from ALS, a degenerative motor-neuron disease that has no cure. Hawking is given two years to live, but Jane is having none of it. She refuses to let the diagnosis stand in the way of their relationship -- or his research. Soon Hawking's brilliant mind is discovered by the rest of the world, but his success masks the enormous challenges that he, Jane, and their three children must face.
Is it any good?
With enormous compassion, this movie looks beyond the brilliant mind that Hawking is best known for. As a student at Cambridge University in 1963, he proved himself gifted early on, but his ascent in academia was marred by his diagnosis, which came just as he met Jane. Together they decide to face the future and whatever it brings, but hope, brilliance, and love can't solve everything. Naysayers might minimize Redmayne's performance here as awards bait, but he's transcendent as Hawking, not once stooping to caricature in creating a character who's deeply sympathetic despite an intellectual pursuit that might intimidate so many others. He makes Hawking more than the legend he becomes.
Part of The Theory of Everything 's appeal is how, despite being a movie about big science -- which, let's be honest, isn't adequately made comprehensible here -- is actually a story about not just the triumph of the human spirit but also an insightful look at a deeply loving but unconventional marriage. Jane isn't given short shrift here, as many other movies about great men have done for the women by their side. Her yearnings and struggles are laid bare. For a story about one of the greatest minds of this generation, the film is deeply emotional, even allowing viewers to witness the failure of the marriage that allowed Hawking to thrive. Your heart will break, as surely as the universe continues to expand.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Hawking's life before and after his diagnosis. Does The Theory of Everything appear to have a point of view about how his challenges defined him -- and his marriage?
How does the movie handle the subject of Hawking's disease and its effects on his professional and personal life? How does his disease affect his relationship with Jane? How is she portrayed?
How accurate do you think the movie is? Why might filmmakers have changed some details of what happened in real life? Are biopics obliged to be completely true to life?
- In theaters: November 7, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: February 17, 2015
- Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Emily Watson
- Director: James Marsh
- Studio: Focus Features
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Great Boy Role Models, Science and Nature
- Character Strengths: Compassion, Perseverance
- Run time: 123 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some thematic elements and suggestive material
- Awards/Honors: Academy Award, Common Sense Seal, Golden Globe
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