Few public figures have ever illustrated the Cartesian conceit of a mind/body split quite like Stephen Hawking; paralyzed in his early 20s by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and confined to a wheelchair for the better part of five decades, his intellectual agility has made him one of the best-travelled – and most well-known – scientists in the world.
Stephen Finnigan’s Hawking is not the first documentary to feature its namesake in a crucial role (he was the subject of Errol Morris’s A Brief History of Time), but it does come billed as his definitive cinematic biography.
There are interviews with his family and friends (including, quite incongruously, Jim Carrey) as well as candid reflections by the man himself on his childhood, his illness and his accomplishments (all delivered via his familiar voice-generator).
As a documentary, Hawking more closely resembles a love-in, and it skirts the issue of his publicly troubled second marriage.
At the same time, it’s tough to begrudge this brilliant, proudly unbroken man his victory lap – and Hawking is a perfectly serviceable star vehicle.