Eternal Beauty Review

Eternal Beauty
Following a disastrous wedding day, Jane (Sally Hawkins) suffers a breakdown that leads to her diagnosis as a paranoid schizophrenic. Largely unsupported by her mostly unfeeling family, things look bleak — until she meets singer-songwriter Mike (David Thewlis).

by Ian Freer |
Updated on
Release Date:

02 Oct 2020

Original Title:

Eternal Beauty

A step up from his directorial debut Just Jim, Craig Roberts’ second feature delivers a clear-eyed, compassionate view of a mental illness often botched by movies: schizophrenia. Anchored around a terrific Sally Hawkins as Jane, a fragile but functioning woman suffering from paranoid episodes, Eternal Beauty allies strong performances with imaginative direction, channelling the likes of Wes Anderson and Michel Gondry to bring Jane’s altered states to life.

Eternal Beauty

This innovative filmmaking approach is refreshingly applied to bland, grey municipal housing units. Having been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic following a breakdown (we see snatches of the past, with rising star Morfydd Clark playing young Jane being jilted on her wedding day), Jane lives a mostly self-sufficient life in a small apartment decked out with vintage ephemera (production designer Tim Dickel has a field day with bric-à-brac) and spending time with a mostly tough, uncaring family: browbeaten dad Dennis (Robert Pugh), pass-ag mum Vivian (Penelope Wilton) and mean-girl sister Nicola (Billie Piper). The sole point of kindness in her family comes from her understanding sister Alice (Alice Lowe).

The film shares some quirky DNA with Richard Ayoade’s _Submarine_.

The story rises up a level when Jane stops taking her medication. While there are unwanted side effects (she starts seeing huge spiders crawling everywhere), she begins to feel more alive, a sensation enhanced when she meets aspiring singer-songwriter Mike (David Thewlis), also suffering with mental health issues. At this point Eternal Beauty enters its most entertaining stretch as the pair enjoy an almost teenage rush of first love, complete with bad, awkward sex. It’s such a happy, joyous relationship, you know it can’t last.

In bringing Jane’s world to life, the film shares some quirky DNA with Richard Ayoade’s Submarine, which starred Roberts and had Hawkins playing his mother. The skewed camera angles, vivid colour palette and playing with focus (it was shot on 35mm film) are employed to put you right inside Jane’s headspace. But Eternal Beauty’s ace in the hole remains Hawkins. Smartly interpreting Roberts’ sensitive writing (it’s also funnier than it sounds), she is superb, nuanced but never showy, delivering a complex performance filled with intelligent choices and empathy. It’s another top-tier turn that, along with Happy-Go-Lucky, Blue Jasmine, Maudie and The Shape Of Water, must put her in line for national-treasure status sometime soon.

A brilliant Sally Hawkins stands atop Craig Roberts’ perceptive look at mental illness. Small but beautifully formed.
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