Hawking: Can You Hear Me

Rating 8.3
Streamers Now, Sky
Episodes 1 x 90 mins

They say you should never meet your heroes, and whilst this may be true for musicians and movie stars, you would think that the same is unlikely to apply to cosmologists. As it transpires, Stephen Hawking’s life was about as juicy as an Eastenders Christmas special, but Sky documentary Hawking: Can You Hear Me still manages to deal with his rambunctious personal life with the upmost sensitivity and care. Forget Keeping Up with The Kardashians, this is where the real drama is at. 

The story of Stephen Hawking is one which we are all familiar with, even more so after the success of Eddy Redmayne’s portrayal of him in The Theory of Everything. However, Can You Hear Me shines a new light on the life of a legend, speaking directly to his friends and family to gain a rounded understanding of Hawking’s fascinating story. In The Telegraph, Anita Singh points to the way in which “Hawking’s family didn’t sugarcoat their account of him”, creating a “complex profile that highlighted his faults, as well as his genius”. In fact, far from sugarcoating Hawking, in the most sensitive way possible, his family exposed the shortcomings, and in fact selfishness, of a life so devoted to scientific exploration. 

+ For another documentary about a brilliant brain, watch Hemingway.

The Guardian’s Lucy Mangan proposes that the “delicately intelligent film also asked how much indulgence we give, and should give to extraordinary minds”, pointing to the way the film exposes just how significant those who lived in his shadow were to facilitating the ground-breaking work he performed. Mangan goes on to call it a “fine, fine film that answered much and evoked more, [giving] genius its due, and the unsung heroes – at last – some of theirs.” 

The entertainment value of the film comes from the way in which, as James Walton describes in The Spectator“Hawking’s family talked about him with such frankness that it sometimes felt as if the director…had slipped them all a truth drug”. The film truly has an open-door policy, in which no area of Hawking’s life is off-limits, yet still, a poised and commending picture is painted – a homage to a man who was both legend and human. 

+ Do you love documentary films? Check out our review of McCartney 3, 2, 1 

First shown September 2021.

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