Stephen Hawking worked for an average of an hour a day when studying for his undergraduate degree at the University of Oxford. This doesn’t seem to have held him back though, as we are reminded of in Hawking: a biography of the physicist’s life, told in his own words.

We are all aware that Stephen Hawking is an extra-ordinary man, having lived with amyloid lateral sclerosis (ALS) for almost 50 years and concurrently become a world-renowned researcher, teacher and writer; but Hawking takes us further than a list of achievements, and allows us access to Stephen Hawking the child, man, student, friend and husband.

The film generally moves chronologically through Hawking’s life, with interviews from siblings, colleagues and friends, occasionally moving gently back to the present to show Hawking’s day-to-day life at Cambridge and home. Stories from Hawking’s childhood move on to give us insight into Hawking’s early years at Oxford, when partying, dancing and coxing seemed to take up most of his time; and then onwards to meeting his first wife and the onset of the disease which would change his life forever.

The dramatic effects of ALS are discussed honestly, with Hawking and his family being understandably devastated, however the film is not overly morbid or emotional, much as the human response to harsh life events often isn’t. The film is also brave in that it doesn’t hero-worship Hawking, there are open accounts from his first wife about the breakdown of their marriage and the difficulty of living with a genius. It is also interesting to hear how much joy Hawking seems to draw from his current celebrity status, clearly proud to be on talk-shows and make cameos in The Simpson’s and Star Trek.

All-in-all Hawking is a sincere, truthful and interesting film about a man who is fascinating in so many ways, and ordinary in so many others.

Helen saw Hawking as part of Edinburgh International Film Festival 2013