Eddie Redmayne wins rave reviews as Stephen Hawking as Theory of Everything takes Toronto by storm

It looks like Benedict Cumberbatch has some company in the race for the 2015 best actor Oscar...

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British scientists are taking the movies by storm. Not a sentence we ever thought we’d write – but thanks to biopics of Alan Turing and Stephen Hawking, Britain’s brainiest are all Hollywood can talk about. 

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Earlier this month The Imitation Game, about computer scientist and Enigma codebreaker Alan Turing, premiered at Telluride Film Festival to rave reviews, particularly of Benedict Cumberbatch’s turn as Turning. Early murmurings already had the Sherlock star in the running for the best actor Oscar but now one of his compatriots has joined the race. 

Eddie Redmayne was on the red carpet at the Toronto Film Festival last night to premiere his take on Stephen Hawking (the physicist with motor neurone disease also once played by Cumberbatch) in much-hyped biopic The Theory of Everything – and the reviews of his performance suggest he’s another early contender. 

Writing in The Guardian, Catherine Shoard notes that any film “stands or falls” on its central performance. “Redmayne towers,” she writes.”This is an astonishing, genuinely visceral performance which bears comparison with Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot. His Hawking starts askew – the glasses, maybe the shoulders a touch – and over the course of two hours contorts and buckles into a figure at once instantly familiar and fresh. This is more than just skilful impersonation – it’s inhabitation. To look on as his face and body distort is to feel, yourself, discomforted, even queasy.”

Variety‘s chief film critic Justin Chang praises James Marsh for a “sensitively directed inspirational biopic”, adding, “what’s onscreen is less a cerebral experience than a stirring and bittersweet love story, inflected with tasteful good humour.”

The Hollywood Reporter‘s Leslie Felperin applauds the movie for managing to mostly avoid “saccharine clichés” but adds, “if the syrupy lows are blessedly few and far between, the highs are not much more frequent.”

Felperin is among many who observe a script by Anthony McCarten “at pains to be fair to and honour its still-living subjects”, adding that Redmayne pulls off the role “with enormous grace and endurance, and it’s not just the assist from the prosthetic teeth and ears that helps him create an impeccable mimicry of the real man.”

Screen International reviewer Tim Grierson writes “this drama may occasionally flirt too heavily with ‘prestige picture’ preciousness, but on the whole it’s an absorbingly lovely and sad recounting of a marriage that wasn’t built to last, despite its participants’ best intentions.”

“Actors who undergo extreme physical transformations for dramatic roles often are overpraised for their performances,” writes Gregory Ellwood in Hitfix. “That will never ben the case for Eddie Redmayne’s remarkable depiction of Stephen Hawking.”

He adds, “There is one particularly powerful scene in Hawking’s later years where he cries while the rest of his body barely moves (and we mean barely). It’s a moment that will haunt you long after you leave the theatre.”

The Evening Standard‘s David Sexton has plenty of praise for Redmayne’s co-star Felicity Jones who plays Hawking’s first wife. “As Jane, Felicity Jones is deeply touching from start to finish. She’s just so emotionally present, so involving, all the time she’s on the screen. She makes this film just as much about Jane as it is about Stephen Hawking.”

And finally, Nikola Grozdanovic writes in Indiewire, “In a story about Stephen Hawking from the perspective of Jane Hawking, both actors needed to be at the very top of their game, else the picture would collapse. Instead, they soar. Redmayne in particular turns in a physically demanding performance like he’s a veteran and not a rising superstar, crushing all of his previous roles.”

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Also starring David Thewlis, Charlie Cox, Maxine Peake and Emily Watson, The Theory of Everything will be released in UK cinemas on 1 January 2015. We. Can’t. Wait.