Film Review: Eternal Beauty (2019)

Sally Hawkins is scorchingly good in Craig Roberts’ Eternal Beauty, as effective a screen portrayal of mental illness as there’s ever been

“Mike reckons I’m better than Céline Dion”

With films like Eternal Beauty on her CV, it is hard to understand why Sally Hawkins isn’t feted as one of our absolute finest actors. She may have two Academy Award nominations under her belt but it doesn’t feel like she’s celebrated anywhere near as much as her talent dictates it should.

It may be that her role as Jane here could be seen as challenging. As a young woman rocked with mental health challenges, the immersion into the strange contours of her world is certainly startling. Haunted by past events and hobbled by an appalling family, it is little wonder she’s retreated into herself.

What is really clever about Craig Roberts’ film though is that as it suggests that we all have our problems, Jane’s journey to understanding her condition through managing her meds and her interactions with others may actually give her more agency. The tone evolves throughout, from jet-black comedy to almost-horror to something deeply affecting, embracing the messy edges that come with real life.

Hawkins’ work at the heart of the film is stunning, feeling so grounded and allowing us real empathy. And she’s supported by excellent turns from Penelope Wilton as her vituperative mother, Billie Piper as her sharp-edged sister and Alice Lowe as the one family member who is anywhere near to a friend. Kit Fraser’s cinemtatography and Tim Dickel’s production design both excel too, particularly as they evoke Jane’s differing mental landscapes.

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