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Film review: Eternal Beauty (15)

PUBLISHED: 12:41 24 September 2020 | UPDATED: 12:41 24 September 2020

Eternal Beauty starring Sally Hawkins

Eternal Beauty starring Sally Hawkins

Archant

Craig Roberts’ film presents the world from inside the head of a woman with a mental illness leaving audiences confused and emotionally disconnected

Eternal Beauty starring Sally HawkinsEternal Beauty starring Sally Hawkins

There’s a scene early on that may be the key to why Eternal Beauty is such an awkward, if well-intentioned, experience. Jane (Hawkins), who definitely has some form of mental illness, is asked by her sister (Piper) to show her how this manifests itself physically because she wants to fake being clinically depressed to persuade the social services to put her on sick benefits. This turns out to be mostly leg vibrations. So you have Hawkins doing her pretend “real” jitters, next to Piper doing her pretend fake jitters and you look from one to the other, sitting next to each other on a sofa juddering frantically, and think that sometimes acting is a rather ridiculous way of making a living.

Writer/ director Roberts has chosen to show the world from inside Jane’s head, so it is vague on most things. (A precise diagnosis for Janes’ condition isn’t offered until the last scene.) Working for such a viewpoint nullifies the idea of objective reality so a viewer never knows what is real and what is delusional. The film is a mix of social realism and moments of low key surrealism, like a Mike Leigh where he occasionally indulges himself with a Danny Boyle flourish.

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The advantage of this is that it gives the filmmakers a marvellous get out clause. Often events will happen or characters appear from out of nowhere without any explanation. You never know if that is deliberate or the result of trying to edit round something that wasn’t working. Thewlis pops up as a love interest for Jane, does his turn and then exits the film, and you’re left wondering what on earth that was all about?

The film has some striking moments and strong performances. Hawkins has a way of digging in so deep to a character that by the end she’s dug herself clear through to the other side and there is nothing left but all the little nuances and ticks she’s painstakingly perfected. It doesn’t leave anything for the audience to connect with, and that is the issue with the film as a whole. There’s a lot going on, but not a lot you can use.

2/5 stars

Directed by Craig Roberts. Starring Sally Hawkins, Alice Lowe, David Thewlis, Billie Piper, Morfydd Clark and Penelope Wilton. In Cinemas. Running time: 94 mins.

Www.halfmanhalfcritic.com for a review of Sofia Coppola’s On The Rocks.


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