TV Review: Hawking

“Galileo was wrong, St Albans is actually the very centre of the universe”

One of those random coincidences (of sorts) sees likely Academy Award rivals Benedict Cumberbatch and Eddie Redmayne going up against other this year with Redmayne taking on a role – Stephen Hawking – that Cumberbatch has already played. Peter Moffat’s Hawking aired on the BBC back in 2004 and I have to say I remember it quite vividly, though I don’t imagine anyone could have predicted the career that was to come for its star!

This biopic focuses on Hawking’s early years at Cambridge University as he battled his newly diagnosed motor neurone disease, he was initially given two years to live – and set about the research that would lead to him to discovering the origins of the universe. Having detested physics at school, I can’t pretend that much (any) of the science really sank in but it doesn’t matter as director Philip Martin focuses on the illuminating glow and inspiration it gave to Hawking himself and in Cumbersnatch’s hands, it is a joy to watch.

Unafraid of ruffling the feathers of either the old guard or his colleagues (John Sessions, Peter Firth and Tom Ward all doing admirable work here) he finds fit theories to fit his thinking and also to fit his increasingly limited physicality, something the Cumbersnook portrays with aching sensitivity (I loved seeing Phoebe Nicholls as his mum, we need more of her in our lives). And as his relationship with new friend Jane (an excellent Lisa Dillon) blossoms into something substantial, we see the importance of her presence in motivating his work.

Personally, I wasn’t too keen on the framing device of the two scientists being interviewed about their discovery of the physical proof of the big bang, it sits rather awkwardly in the piece as a whole. But overall, it doesn’t detract from a good film and a great performance from Cumbersands. Now, off to see The Theory of Everything soon to see how Redmayne compares!

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