There is one simple reason why I made a serious effort to get a hold of this film: Benedict Cumberbatch.
I’ve been a fan of his work since I was introduced to Sherlock, and recently I decided to find out what else he has done (apart from big-budget films like Star Trek: Into Darkness…which I’ve seen twice).
Hawking is a biopic of Stephen Hawking’s years as a doctoral student at the University of Cambridge in England. This was the time when he received his diagnosis of a motor neuron disease related to Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s).
The scene in the movie showed Stephen and Jane (who would later become his 1st wife) lying on the grass outside the party at his home. When they got up however, Stephen discovered that he was unable to move. Benedict portrayed the fear and panic in such a realistic manner; it felt completely real.
While watching this film, I actually discovered some new information about Stephen Hawking. The biggest piece was that, upon his diagnosis, he was given a maximum of 2 years to live. Still, he returned for his doctoral studies and didn’t take the easy road with his research.
Now, I will admit that I don’t know the details of Lou Gehrig’s disease, and Stephen Hawking was already in his wheelchair and using the voice generator by the time I was alive, but I still felt like Benedict’s portrayal of the beginning descent was spot-on to how a disease such as this would progress and he wasn’t bogged down with too many tics. Sometimes it was very subtle, like a slight limp in his walk, and other times it was more visible and severe, like the slurred speech and difficulty tying his shoes. Overall, it was really well done.
The directing in this film is quite good, capturing even significant small moments. What I also love is how it shows how everyone is dealing with Stephen’s condition, including Stephen himself. In particular, I appreciated how it showed the Stephen’s advisor for his studies wasn’t going to treat him differently and give him “easier” research.
The film itself is spot-on with the facts and the history- after watching- I did a little bit of fact checking just to verify (and because I find this story to be inspirational and fascinating).
Nearing the end of the film, you see that sometimes when Stephen spoke only close friends and family could understand and as a result had to translate for him. This, I suspect, was the “step” before he required the voice generator that he uses now. Speaking of the generator, I found out that now it is controlled by Stephen blinking his eyes and eventually, Stephen and his team how to be able to have it be controlled by his thoughts/brainwaves.
While I don’t really understand Stephen’s research fully (though I think I grasp the concept of black holes), I can definitely understand the implications of it. He is an amazing man who, despite enormous obstacles, has pushed forward and accomplished so much.
I would definitely recommend watching this film because it is well written, researched, directed…and of course, the acting is phenomenal.