Eternal Beauty review: A state of mind

Sally Hawkins plays Jane, a woman with paranoid schizophrenia, in Craig Roberts’ Eternal Beauty.

Mental illness has been the subject of many movies; some hit the mark, while others can go so wide from the mark that it can be embarrassing and, at times, downright insulting. Happily, Eternal Beauty sits very comfortably in the former.

Following the story of Jane (Sally Hawkins) who, following a breakdown after being left at the altar as a young woman (young Jane is played by wonderful rising star Morfydd Clark), is coping with paranoid schizophrenia. Coping is an apt word here; there’s no question of a battle to overcome and the coping mechanisms are varied, ranging from medication, to companionship, to maintaining a routine.

She’s surrounded by a family who both help and hinder; there’s her berating mother Vivian (Penelope Wilton) who spends most of the time talking about herself, her selfish sister Nicola (Billie Piper) whose main aim is to get what she can out of people, and her supportive sister Alice (Alice Lowe) who is having family troubles of her own.

The film is told entirely from Jane’s point of view, which makes for an enthralling experience as we get a small glimpse into her complex worldview. Writer and director Craig Roberts takes the time for her surroundings to reflect her state of mind; whether it’s the subtly changing colours as her moods alter or to more overt indications of troubling times ahead by completing taking a window out of her apartment when she stops taking her pills. It also means we’re never sure if what’s happening is actually happening or if it’s in Jane’s head; perfectly reflecting the topsy turvy goings-on within Jane’s complex mind.

It’s a thrilling ride for sure, with Roberts deploying Wes Anderson-esq quirkiness throughout the movie to match Jane’s own unique way of looking at life (at one point she buys her own Christmas presents so she’s sure to get what she wants; handing out receipts to her nearest and dearest to pay her back). The film is also surprisingly funny at times, especially when Jane meets Mike (David Thewlis), who has mental issues of his own and the two share a sweet, if naïve, romance.

Jane can only be played by the great Sally Hawkins, who brings the character to life completely; naturally portraying a convoluted woman with genuine empathy and sweetness. Indeed, Eternal Beauty has a boastful cast of great British talent, though special mention to Alice Lowe who you can’t help but be drawn to (even though her character is surrounded by huge personalities) as she quietly shoulders her burdens until a satisfyingly explosive moment that audiences will relish.

A deep dive into mental health and destructive families, Eternal Beauty is a hypnotic experience, luring you into a delirious journey of self-reflection, thoughtfulness and love.

Eternal Beauty is out now.