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Film / Hawking

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Hawking is a BBC TV drama film about the early career of Stephen Hawking, when he was a young doctoral student at Cambridge, with a subplot centered around Nobel Laureates Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson. It aired in 2004 and stars Benedict Cumberbatch. It deals with three important threads in Hawking's life during those years: his relationship with Jane Wilde, the woman he would later marry; his diagnosis with Motor Neurone Disease, and the development of his ideas about the origins of the universe. The film was well regarded by critics when it first aired, and gained a resurgence in popularity after Sherlock came out, due to Cumberbatch's active fanbase.

Has absolutely nothing to do with falconry.

See also The Theory of Everything, another biopic of Hawking that was theatrically released.

Contains Examples of:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: A matter of some debate, amusingly enough.
    "[Stephen] was so accommodating and really sweet and he teased me. He said: 'You're better looking than me; I was more scruffy than you'. "I've seen the photographs and it's not true," grins Benedict.
  • Bathtub Scene: Probably not intended for fanservice, as the context is a bit sad, but still, it's wet Benedict Cumberbatch.
  • Call-Back: "Can you hear me?"
  • Call-Forward: When we first see Stephen he's sat idley, very much like someone would if they were doing a bad impression of Stephen Hawking. Then of course he stands up.
  • Character Title
  • Cute Glasses Boy: Stephen's Nerd Glasses only make him more endearing.
  • Dawson Casting: Stephen is twenty-one at the beginning of the story. Benedict Cumberbatch was twenty-eight.
  • Determinator: Seems to be the Hawking family ethos.
  • Dramatization: It's based on real people, events and scientific ideas, but some of the details have been fictionalized.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending:
    • After two years not knowing whether he'd live to get his doctorate, Stephen finally makes a scientific breakthrough and his girlfriend agrees to marry him.
    • Arno Penzias overcame a hardscrabble life as a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany to achieve the American Dream and win a Nobel Prize for confirming the origin of the universe.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The stargazing scene at Stephen's birthday party. It shows Stephen's scientific interests, his sense of humor, his developing relationship with Jane, and, when Stephen and Jane are preparing to go back indoors, shows the first obvious indication that there's something medically wrong with him.
  • Framing Device: Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson's TV interview.
  • Geeky Turn-On: Stephen's flirting-via-science can be seen as an attempt to invoke this. Or maybe he's just really bad at mundane small talk.
  • Genius Cripple: Surprisingly downplayed, considering that this is about Stephen Hawking. By the last half hour of the movie Stephen's disability's progressed enough that he's started using a cane, but he's still ambulatory in the final scene. The "genius" part is played straight.
  • Give Geeks a Chance
  • Like an Old Married Couple: Wilson and Penzias have a bit of this: the "know each other very well" variety, not the bickering.
  • Mononymous Biopic Title
  • No Antagonist
  • Oscar Bait: Not literally, as it wasn't a theatrical release, but it is a historical Biopic with a disabled protagonist. They even manage to mention the Holocaust in one of the Penzias and Wilson segments.note 
    • It did win a BAFTA.
  • Plucky Girl: Jane, particularly when she's standing up to the Bursar on Stephen's behalf.
  • Serious Business: Theories about the origin of the universe, although since the characters in question are physicists, this is appropriate and to be expected.
    • To a lesser degree, classical music. Stephen loves his Richard Wagner.
  • The Stoic: Stephen's parents.
    "You've never been a sentimental man, Frank. I don't think we can afford for you to start now."
  • Vindicated by History: The Big Bang, in-universe. Showing this seems to be the purpose of Penzias' and Wilson's segments.
  • Waxing Lyrical: During the stargazing scene.
    "Jane?" "Yes?" "Please please me."
  • Young Future Famous People: Stephen Hawking, back when he was more mobile and far less famous.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: Eventually subverted. Near the beginning of the movie, Stephen's remaining lifespan is estimated to be about two years. Two years later, while his illness has become noticeably worse, he's still going strong and full of plans for the future. In real life, Hawking died in 2018 at age 76, 55 years after being diagnosed.