Documentarian Errol Morris has a knack for finding the fascinating quirks of his subjects, and this brings Stephen Hawking's book A Brief History of Time to sparkling life. Through interviews with family and colleagues of the brilliant theoretical physicist, as well as Hawking's own synthesized readings and reminiscences, we learn of his early life, his struggle with the degenerative disease ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), and his wide-ranging contributions to our knowledge of time, black holes, and the origin of the universe. The science is never downplayed; between Hawking's prose and Morris's visual wizardry, important concepts such as entropy and singularities jump from the screen in memorable vignettes. (Hawking believes a truly universal theory of physics will be understood by "scientists, philosophers, and just ordinary people.") Philip Glass's music, subdued and minimal, balances the alternately somber and hilarious moods of the film. The viewer is left with a sense of awe at the joyous spirit of a man trapped in the world of the mind, occasionally letting the rest of us in on his discoveries. --Rob Lightner
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