With its premiere this past Sunday in Toronto, director James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything may have signaled itself as an early frontrunner in this year’s awards race. For its two leads, Eddie Redmayne (Les Misérables) and Felicity Jones (The Amazing Spider-Man 2), the praise was unanimous. Redmayne has delivered a performance that many feel is the one to beat going forward and Jones is said to be right there with him.
As glimpsed in the first trailer for the film, The Theory of Everything (based off the memoir Traveling to Infinity: My life with Stephen by Stephen Hawking’s now ex-wife, Jane Hawking) recounts the story of Stephen Hawking’s early years as a budding theoretical physicist while at Cambridge. It details his initial diagnosis and deteriorating condition due to a motor neurone disease (related to ALS), coupling this struggle with his strengthening and vital relationship with his then-sweetheart (and eventual wife), Jane Wilde.
The film had been one of the more anticipated premieres in Toronto and came into the festival carrying high expectations, but by most accounts it seems to have met and even exceeded those expectations. Those in attendance say the film received the warmest reception (including a lengthy standing ovation) thus far at Toronto, and perhaps more than any other film at the festival, The Theory of Everything represents classic Oscar fare. It features an actor in a transformative role – the type voters love to see during awards season – while also dealing with a true account of a well-known and respected public figure. The film also has the support of both Jane and Stephen Hawking, the latter of whom reportedly watched and was deeply affected by the film and Redmayne’s performance.
For many, the only real obstacle the film faces is the conventional and perhaps overly-familiar ‘triumph over adversity’ sub-genre that it falls under. It’s a familiar story during awards season, with films like Ray, My Left Foot, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and A Beautiful Mind being common comparison points for the Hawking biopic. Still, it is a formula that can be overlooked by voters if the film is as stirring and emotional as festival-goers have stated.
James Marsh, who previously won an Oscar for his documentary Man on Wire, directed from a script by Anthony McCarten, and the pair seem likely to get some awards recognition themselves.
Focus Features will be releasing The Theory of Everything in theaters on November 7th.