“The Theory of Everything” is a nearly impossible endeavor that succeeds emphatically through an incredibly detailed team effort. It’s a story about a unique and incredible legend who is still living, and whose life none of us can imagine through our own experience.

When director James Marsh and Eddie Redmayne first met, the two artists spent hours talking about the massive undertaking it would be for Redmayne to portray legendary physicist Stephen Hawking in the biopic that Marsh was planning. After the encounter, Marsh cast Redmayne immediately.

Eddie Redmayne’s work in this film will probably be used in acting classes for many years to come. As he explained at a recent screening, he undertook painstaking research with ALS patients and rehearsals with a choreographer who taught him to isolate each muscle of his body to behave as it would in someone with ALS. This work allowed him to set free his performance as Stephen Hawking.

“Theory” is a brilliant film on many levels, from the painstaking attention to detail of costume designer Steven Noble, who takes the main character from student days at Cambridge, through decades, to the intensive preparation of the cast and director prior to shooting the film.

As Hawking must appear more and more emaciated, the costume designer, set designer and makeup artist have created the effect. Marsh, editor Jinx Godfrey and the rest of the team trick us into “seeing” Stephen Hawking’s body shrink as the effects of his ALS become more pronounced. Yet his mind seems to grow. Jane Hawking herself wrote the book, which has been skillfully adapted into a screenplay by Anthony McCarten. Felicity Jones does a wonderful job portraying the patience and fierceness of Jane Hawking. Maxine Peak brings a standout performance as Hawking’s nurse. She is able to convey an immediate bond and sense of humor, communicating with Hawking through her eyes when he can no longer speak.

The score by Johann Johansson is simple enough to stay out of the way of the story, yet this piano theme reflects the constant activity of the physicist’s mind. Cinematographer Benoit Delhomme captures the brilliance of Hawking’s intellect as the center of a milieu of people and places that moves through decades.

What makes this film memorable is truly superb performances by the actors, and the director’s ability to set up a world that the audience is drawn into, that then collapses like the black holes with which Hawking is fascinated, then radiates back out as Hawking and his future wife Jane come to terms with the new ramifications of their situation. This world then has to age believably as the timeline of the film moves through the years. For all this detailed work to be absorbed into the story and allow the resonating note to be the triumph of hope and a keen sense of humor over seemingly insurmountable prospects, is a pretty incredible feat in itself.

Rated PG-13. 123 minutes.

Kathryn Whitney Boole was drawn into the entertainment industry as a kid and never left. It has been the backdrop for many awesome adventures with crazy creative people. She now works as a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. She can be reached at kwboole@gmail.com.

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