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03 October 2020 10:33

The Handmaid's Tale Aunt Lydia Ann Dowd

Craig Roberts on Eternal Beauty, Sally Hawkins, lockdown reality TV binges

Starring Sally Hawkins, David Thewlis, Billie Piper, Alice Lowe, Penelope Wilton, Robert Pugh, and Morfydd Clark. After Jane (Sally Hawkins) falls into a state of despair over her schizophrenia, she encounters new sources of love and life with surprising results. Still in his twenties, actor-turned-filmmaker Craig Roberts (perhaps still best known for his performance in Richard Ayoade's Submarine) is already on his sophomore feature; a confident dark comedy that oozes style and potential, in spite of its clear flaws. Eternal Beauty tells the story of Jane, a paranoid schizophrenic, prone to unpredictable behaviour that alienates those around her, most of whom seem relatively apathetic towards her. Jane is played with sheer brilliance by the always terrific Sally Hawkins, who delivers a fully committed performance, perfectly balancing her dry comedic timing with the undoubtedly tragic state of her character.

Supporting cast members David Thewlis, Billie Piper, Alice Lowe and Penelope Wilton all deserve credit for their strong contributions also, but this film lives and dies on the shoulders of Hawkins, who is perhaps the only performer who could've played this part to the tone Roberts clearly wanted. Roberts seems more focused on showcasing his style than fully engaging with his subject and, in the end, it all comes across a little self-important, and most audiences will likely find it notably difficult to get through. Her latest role, as the lead in Craig Roberts' Eternal Beauty, takes full advantage of that dangerous, fragile quality. Through flashbacks, it's revealed that as a young woman (played by Morfydd Clark), Jane was abandoned at the altar. Roberts communicates Jane's state of mind through bright primary colors, as new love and her decision to stop (then eventually resume) taking her medication affect how the world feels to her.

To that end, Eternal Beauty feels a tad like a Wes Anderson movie in how carefully considered and bordering on twee the aesthetics are, especially as Roberts manipulates parts of Jane's apartment as though pulling apart a theater set. As the screenwriter, Roberts doesn't seem to know what he wants to say about taking medication as a way to manage mental illness. Exploring the world of mental illness in film is really a tricky balancing act and many have succeeded in telling their tales, such as One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Shutter Island and Silver Linings Playbook while others drop the ball in misunderstanding how to respectfully depict their central subjects and while Craig Roberts certainly creates charming and fairly sympathetic characters in Eternal Beauty, he unfortunately fails to give them any meaningful story or development to go with it. As she struggles to get her life back on track following being jilted at the altar by her fiancé and falling into a state of despair, schizophrenic Jane (Sally Hawkins) finds new sources of love and live while receiving treatment, changing her life for the better and for the worst. The concept of a broken woman being able to break free from the shackles of her illness solely through the prospect of love is a tale frequently told on the big screen to varying results and Roberts falls very much in the middle in chronicling the life of Jane.

When it's clear it wants to be a dark comedy in the vein of Harold and Maude, it works nicely, when it wants to be a powerful exploration of mental illness akin to A Beautiful Mind, it's devastatingly real, but there's too much that feels like it can't decide which it would like to be that results in a relatively disappointing affair. That doesn't mean that there aren't positives to the film, however, as Jenkins delivers what could be an Oscar-worthy performance as Jane, never letting her character break even in the slightest and fully committing to the eccentric behaviors that come from her mental illness. While he may struggle with the tonal balancing act of the story, Roberts' directorial eye is nothing short of beautiful as the 29-year-old Welsh filmmaker delivers a number of stylish and compellingly shot moments throughout the film and utilizing a simple-yet-rich color palette that gives the film a vibrant look even in the most dour of scenes. Though the film may contradict a number of its own messages and add up to practically nothing in the end in the way of character development of compelling storytelling, Roberts delivers a relatively charming atmosphere, some nice offbeat humor and a stellar performance that Jenkins that keeps Eternal Beauty from sinking entirely. 'Eternal Beauty' Proves Normal Is Boring in Its Story of Mental Illness Directed by Craig Roberts Starring Sally Hawkins, David Thewlis, Alice Power Before sitting down to watch Eternal Beauty, it felt like I hadn't seen Sally Hawkins since her Oscar-nominated turn in The Shape of Water.

In writer-director Craig Roberts' sophomore feature, Hawkins delivers a powerful performance that reminds us why she's one of the best actresses of her generation. Much like The Shape of Water, her latest film sees her playing a woman with a disability – one that's psychological more than physical, but affects her in that way, too. Family is a big part of the film, and as the middle child of three sisters and the daughter of a domineering mother, these are relationships in Jane's life that are both complicated and fascinating to explore – and a brilliant cast to match with Alice Lowe and Billie Piper as her sisters and Penelope Wilton as her mother. The darkness and disjointedness of Jane's mind manifests through both Hawkins' performance and the film's visuals and editing. To celebrate the release of Eternal Beauty, the sophomore directorial effort from Craig Roberts, we sat down with him to chat about the film and how he has been surviving in 2020.

Based on the life of a friend he had when he was growing up, Eternal Beauty tells a story of a person with schizophrenia and how they deal with the world around them and navigate their own reality. When Jane (Sally Hawkins) is dumped at the altar she has a breakdown and spirals into a chaotic world, where love (both real and imagined) and family relationships collide with both touching and humorous consequences.