MM movie review: dark comedy Eternal Beauty

This whimsical dark comedy provides an empathetic and nuanced view of schizophrenia that is a far cry from past portrayals of the illness.

Award-winning actress Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water) stars as Jane, a delicate woman whose mental health has spiralled ever since she was left at the altar.

Suffering from bouts of depression and paranoid schizophrenia, she navigates her suburban world in a drowsy, medicated state with only her family to support her.

And what luck to find herself with the most unsupportive family in existence.

Her silent father (Robert Pugh) looks on as oppressing mother Vivian (Penelope Wilton) makes everything about herself.

Cruel sister Nicola (Billie Piper) causes trouble, and her other sister Alice (Alice Lowe) is well meaning but treats her like a child, fixating on Jane’s problems whilst failing to recognise her own.

But sparks fly when she meets oddball Mike (David Thewlis) and suddenly Jane is hopeful for the future.

What’s most captivating about the film is the way we experience everything through Jane.

What she hears, we hear too – a phone constantly ringing, radio stations blaring harmful messages and a faceless voice demanding her devotion.

Much of the time you can’t be sure what’s real.

This feeling is amplified by writer and director Craig Roberts who dips into multiple genres throughout, with glimpses of horror and a rom-com montage reflecting Jane’s mental state.

Eternal Beauty isn’t without comedy too, as Jane often infuses the scene with humour, her mannerisms catching the other characters off guard.

Scenes between Jane and Alice’s son had me laughing out loud, as the poor boy is totally bemused by the absurdity of his aunt.

Roberts has said in interviews that Jane’s character is based on a family member who he wanted to pay tribute to by highlighting her illness as a superpower rather than something that holds her back.

The film really shines because of this, as it shows that being ‘normal’ does not equal happiness and Jane holds a power that her family members don’t.

A journey of acceptance, Eternal Beauty will take you by surprise and leave you thinking about it for a long time afterwards.

Eternal Beauty is available to stream on Curzon Home Cinema, BFI player and Amazon Prime.

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