“Eternal Beauty” is an extremely personal movie for writer/director Craig Roberts. And it may hit close to home for you, as well. Roberts’ film is based on his own life experience, growing-up in family with a member who struggled with mental illness.
Sally Hawkins plays main character Jane (as an adult). Jane is a paranoid schizophrenic. She’s able to live on her own and function in society — but just barely. As she did in 2017’s “The Shape of Water”, Hawkins delivers one of the most striking and captivating performances of the year.
Much of the the first half hour of “Eternal Beauty” is tough to watch. We sympathize with Jane and her pain, as well as the struggles of family members interacting with her. Jane’s two sisters are somewhat supportive. Her mother (Penelope Wilton) is less so. Flashbacks scenes provide insight of a dysfunction home life and traumatic events that lead to Jane’s initial breakdown. These are heartbreaking.
Yet, while constantly battling her demons, Jane remains positive, highly observant and demonstrates flashes of a wicked sense of humor.
Unfortunately, the second act strays off-course, as the film becomes a love story. Jane meets fellow psychiatric patient Mike (played by David Thewlis) at her doctor’s office. The two soon become romantically involved. This arc is the weakest aspect of the movie. Additionally, a minor subplot involving Jane’s younger sister Nicola, should have been edited out entirely. But a major storyline centering on Jane’s older sister Alice provides a major pay-off.
Thankfully, Roberts gets back on track with a final act that solidifies the film’s message and purpose. He’s openly spoken about wanting Jane’s schizophrenia to be a superpower. And the character is extraordinary and heroic. And she does uses her “gift” (mostly) for good. Roberts includes unconventional visuals and camera techniques, as well as dialogue and audio drops to make his points. And the script is packed with symbolism.
“Eternal Beauty” is inaccurately being described by some as a dramedy. The trailer includes light, bouncy music and an upbeat tone. But make no mistake: this is a searing, heart-wrenching look at one person’s courageous battle with a relentless enemy. It’s a sad, uneven but inspiring modern day underdog story — that may leave you seeing life and the concept of happiness in a completely different way.
LCJ GRADE: B
Running Time: 95 min.