Stephen Hawking has – and is living – a miraculous and very special life. His work is inspiring other students also looking for a career in science, and his theories have sparked many discussions and have sold many copies of his bestseller A Brief History of Time.
Filmmaker Stephen Finnigan has given Hawking the chance to tell his life story in his own words to audiences with the self-entitled doc Hawking.
Finnigan’s doc is a personable journey through the acclaimed scientist’s boyhood leading up to his world class status. The accounting has been assembled in a way that’s accessible, doesn’t reek of abundant gratification, and is overall really good and vastly interesting.
Hawking highlights the many achievements of Stephen Hawking’s life (including his impact on pop culture), but doesn’t shy away from those moments showing how binding Hawking’s life has been because of his severe ALS.
The doc shows us a pre-diagnosed young Stephen Hawking living an exciting life in school, where he was known for his quick-witted personality and partying. His sharpness is what originally labeled him as brilliant. As stated in the doc, the big decision was whether Hawking would apply his smarts towards making a difference.
After being diagnosed with ALS, Hawking’s motor skills have slowed down with most of his abilities coming to a stop. Now at parties, he’s spoon fed champagne as people around him mingle.
Although, he’s showing us a more capacitated side of the wheelchair-bound genius, Finnigan never puts his subject in a spot where movie goers are obligated to feel bad for him. We realize his situation and his inabilities are frustrating, but Finnigan is never asking us to feel sorry for Hawking. The differences between the past and modern day are shown in a way to emphasize that the times are always a-changing.
The filmmaker has attached smaller digital cameras to Hawking’s wheelchair to give viewers his perspective. There’s hardly any shakiness from the cameras when the scientist is in motion, and movie goers get a real sense of what life is like when all eyes are on him as well as how the lack of privacy is in full-effect when admirers start taking pictures.
Hawking features many interviews from past students, the mother of his children, and people who collaborated with the mastermind. In between the interviews, Stephen Hawking guides movie goers through narration.
While I’m not wanting to sound insensitive, the idea of Stephen Hawking narrating a film seems like a tragically bad move. Hawking, of course, talks with impressive text-to-voice technology. The risk of betting movie goers will listen and be invested to a computerized voice for 90 minutes is terribly high.
However, with the help of the director and Ben Bowie, the narration works. Hawking is articulate and a great storyteller. This is also a big step for a man who has been reserved about sharing information about living with ALS and how it gradually took over. The script reads as a very proud memoir with no regrets. It works as both a movie and as catharsis for its subject.
Though its recognized briefly, Finnigan, Bowie, and Hawking take a quantum leap over the scientist’s prior controversies, such as the detailing during the eruptions of religious groups. Nonetheless, Hawking is a superb documentary that’s very informative.
It’s to note that Finnigan’s film does read as a television special that has somehow found its way into theatres. But, whether you catch this on the big screen or at home, this is worth seeking out.