Although fixed in the popular imagination as something of “The Stephen Hawking Story,” the Oscar-nominated “The Theory of Everything” is actually based on a 2007 memoir by the famous physicist’s ex-wife Jane, who tells the tale of their courtship and 30-year marriage from the singular perspective of a wife gradually overwhelmed by what she calls “Stephencare.” Around the time of their meeting, Hawking was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, and his health rapidly deteriorated, making him almost entirely dependent on others.
Judging by “Travelling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen” — itself a revised version of the author’s 1999 memoir “Music to Move the Stars” — the film is actually quite faithful to the facts, deviating from history, for the most, by fudging the timeline of events for dramatic effect. In real life, for instance, Stephen and Jane hadn’t yet started dating when she learned of his illness. The film presents this bombshell as coming after they were an established couple. And while the movie justifiably focuses on Stephen’s groundbreaking PhD work and subsequent theories about the nature of time, it completely overlooks the fact that Jane was also struggling to complete her own PhD in literature for 13 years of their relationship.
As for the scandalous role played by Jonathan Hellyer Jones, a musician and choir director with whom Jane fell in love while still married to Stephen, Jane’s book is noncommittal about exactly when and how their relationship changed from platonic to romantic. On this score, however, “Theory” makes perhaps its boldest use of poetic license, strongly suggesting that the pair first slept together on the eve of Stephen’s contracting pneumonia in 1985 — an illness that would result in a tracheotomy and the loss of his speaking voice.
Fact-checking the Best Picture nominees: