Eternal Beauty is ostensibly the second film to be released in recent months in which a character diagnosed with schizophrenia struggles with the broad issues of love, family, and life. Unlike Luke Eve’s heavily saccharine I Met a Girl, where a man with schizophrenia travels across Australia to find a girl who may or may not exist, Eternal Beauty’s narrative is much more complex, even confounding, and precisely what endpoint it is seeking is vague.
Eternal Beauty casts the always excellent Sally Hawkins as Jane, a middle-aged woman who lives with schizophrenia and struggles with her quirky and aloof family. One day, Jane finds Mike (David Thewlis)–who may also suffer from schizophrenia, though it’s entirely unclear–and falls in love with him, all the way while struggling with her intensifying symptoms.
Hawkins, one of the best actresses working today, gives much more weight and sensitivity than Brenton Thwaites’ twee performance in I Met a Girl, though it deserves a much better, perhaps even more ambitious film. Director/writer Craig Roberts (perhaps best known as the lead actor in Richard Aoyade’s 2010 film Submarine) attempts to balance sincere dramatic representation of schizophrenia with the screenplay of a dark comedy, but ultimately fails at both.
Consequently, much of the film necessarily falls on the shoulder of Hawkins, who ably carries much of the film with a reasonably realistic depiction of a woman understandably depressed by her condition. Though at times the screenplay gives her a degree of quirkiness that befits more of a typical Hawkins character than a person with schizophrenia.
Overall, Eternal Beauty is challenging to follow, and lacks a central core on which to understand where the film is going and what it seeks to achieve. Viewers will enjoy Hawkins’ incredible performance, but even a good performance can only go so far.
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Mark Barber: @WorstCinephile