BFI London Film Festival: Eternal Beauty

Eternal Beauty
Eternal Beauty
Directed by Craig Roberts
Starring Sally Hawkins, Alice Lowe and David Thewlis
Screening at LFF October 8th and 9th 2019

by Alex Plant

Writer/director Craig Roberts has said that one of his goals whilst making his second feature, Eternal Beauty, was that he wanted to see if it was possible to recast the perceived weakness of mental illness as a strength. The main character, Jane, is inspired by a relative of Roberts‘ that suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, but the director has said that he believes she has a superpower. With this refreshing take in mind, Roberts has produced not only one of the year’s most unique films, but also one of the best representations of mental illness ever committed to film.

Eternal Beauty offers a snapshot into the life of Jane (Hawkins), as she navigates her way through her own troubles, a squabbling family and lots and lots of medication. Along the way she forms a romance with musician and “Truth Detective” Mike (Thewlis) and attempts to figure out what it means to be “in one’s oils”.

Striking in-camera visual effects coupled with some close-quarters camera work make this a hypnotic and often uncomfortable ride. Jane’s flat often feels like a dollhouse co-owned by Ken Loach and David Lynch. Though, Roberts injects this film with its own unique energy, and through very clever use (and occasional absence) of colour, masterfully simulates the experience of a life controlled by medication. There’s a lot of Eternal Beauty that feels open to interpretation. We don’t always need to see what Jane experiences, all we need to know it that it’s real to her.

At the centre of all of this is a truly bewildering and beguiling performance from Sally Hawkins, cementing her reputation as one of Britain’s greatest actors. It’s hard to imagine anyone else pulling this off so well. She makes the comedy shine and the tragedy sting with a raw, often unglamorous performance and you are utterly invested in her every move. She’s backed up by a tremendous supporting cast including the always excellent duo of Alice Lowe and Billie Piper.

Eternal Beauty, like its central character, can be charming, challenging and heartbreaking, but overall it stands as a powerful document for that will hopefully help reframe mental illness for all who watch it.


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