Based on the memoir "Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen," by Jane Hawking, "The Theory of Everything" stars Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones and tells the story of renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking. (Focus Features)

A quick look at this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Picture…

Synopsis: Based on the memoir of Stephen Hawking’s first wife Jane, the drama centers on the relationship between the famous cosmologist and the woman who nursed him through his slow decline from Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Total nominations: 5 (picture, actor, actress, adapted screenplay, original score)

Directed by: James Marsh (one previous win, for best documentary feature)

Starring: Eddie Redmayne (nominated for best actor; first nomination), Felicity Jones (nominated for best actress; first nomination)


Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything.” (Liam Daniel/Focus Features)

Why it deserves to win: The theme of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity makes this a natural contender for best picture. Anchored by a transformative performance by Eddie Redmayne as Hawking, and an equally moving one from Felicity Jones as his heroically stoic helpmate, “Theory” elevates its central love story to a higher plane. Though its name implies that this is a story about physics, it’s really about the power — and the limitations — of another unseen force: love.

Why it won’t win: Despite two Oscar-nominated performances, “The Theory of Everything” is no match for the tour-de-force acting at the heart of “Boyhood,” in which we get to watch as its central characters, a family of four, actually age over the course of the film’s 12-year production. Though otherwise impeccable, “Theory” suffers from a lack of topical/historical grit, plenty more of which can be found in the fact-based films “American Sniper” and “Selma.” Even the best picture category’s other British period drama (“The Imitation Game”) feels more vital, with its theme of gay tolerance.

Ann Hornaday’s review: 3 stars

“‘The Theory of Everything’ achieves its uplift by acknowledging that uplift isn’t always possible, at least in the strictest sense: It’s an exceptional film, not because of its protagonists’ impressive triumphs, but because it honors their struggle.”

Box office as of Feb. 17: $33.3 million domestic, $98.4 million worldwide

READ MORE:

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– Why ‘Boyhood’ deserves to win the Best Picture Oscar