Hope, humor and Hawking: ‘The Theory of Everything’

By Alison Berstein
Staff Writer

There are those stories that are so heart-tugging, so moving, that you do not soon forget them.

These stories are even more powerful when they’re true.

Before winter break, my roommate and I trekked to the theater to see “The Theory of Everything,” the 2014 biopic about scientist Stephen Hawking. Eddie Redmayne brilliantly portrayed the physicist.

“The Theory of Everything” won two awards at the annual Golden Globe Awards. Redmayne won “Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama,” and composer Jóhann Jóhannsson won “Best Original Score.”

In total, the movie was nominated for awards in four categories, including “Best Motion Picture Drama” and “Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama” (Felicity Jones, who played Hawking’s ex-wife Jane).

Hawking was 21 when he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He first exhibited symptoms of this motor neuron disease when he was attending the University of Cambridge. These symptoms included slurred speech and stumbling. At first he tried to keep his symptoms to himself, but as his condition worsened, the English student could not conceal the twitching of his hands or the stiffening of his facial muscles.

What makes Hawking inspiring is not the obvious fact that he worked to overcome this condition. It’s the fact that he did so with humor and an unyielding love of learning.

During one of my favorite scenes in the movie, Hawking has just been diagnosed with ALS and immediately asks the doctor if the condition will affect his brain. As a student and as the renowned physicist today, Hawking, now 72, is constantly thinking and processing this vast world that encompasses his studies.

He is always learning. He is always wanting to learn.

“The Theory of Everything” and the true account it is based on are testaments to a love of life, laughter, and learning. It is quite the inspirational tale.

The world could use a remedial inspirational story now and again.

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