Film Review: Eternal Beauty

STUDIO: Samuel Goldwyn Films | DIRECTOR: Craig Roberts | CAST: Sally Hawkins, David Thewlis, Alice Lowe, Billie Piper, Penelope Wilton
RELEASE DATE: Oct. 2, 2020
SPECS: NR | 94 min. | Comedy-drama

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie 3Dishes.jpg (40×13) 1/2

Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water, Blue Jasmine) turns in another stellar performance in Craig Roberts’ (Just Jim) sophomore directing effort Eternal Beauty.

In this strange comedic film, Hawkins plays Jane, a paranoid schizophrenic who is still living with the scars of having been left at the altar decades earlier. Voices in the radio tell feed the disparaging thoughts in her head and she gets frequent phone calls from a man who continually proclaims his devotion to her.

Despite her constant hallucinations, Jane, in her oversized rompers and sweaters that envelop her frail body, leads a quiet, contented life, able to manage her symptoms with medication, frequent doctors’ visits and a bit of wry self-awareness. She explains her condition by saying with slight smirk, “It means I think you’re out to kill me, as opposed to schizophrenic, where I’d be out to kill you.”

Sally Hawkins and David Thewlis in Eternal Beauty

Jane’s support system consists solely of her immediate family and they are as fractured as her mind is. Her mother (venerable actress Penelope Wilton, Summerland) is domineering and passive aggressive, her father (Robert Pugh, Game of Thrones) a meek soul who never talks, and her younger sister (Billie Piper, Penny Dreadful) is a schemer who marries rich men for their money while copying Jane’s symptoms to get social benefits. It is only her stoic older sister (the excellent Alice Lowe, Sometimes Always Never) who shows her any real compassion.

When Jane meets Mike (a game David Thewlis, Guest of Honour) in the waiting room of her doctor’s office, all love breaks loose. Their relationship escalates at a frenetic pace, but it’s only a matter of time before her illness begins to take over once again.

A comedy about schizophrenia is a challenging feat and Robert almost pulls it off. Directing from his own screenplay based on the life of one of his relatives, Roberts avoids the stereotypical histrionics usually embedded in films about mental illness. Refreshingly, he approaches the story through Jane’s perspective in a kind, nonjudgmental way with idiosyncratic flourishes that mix a bit of Paul Thomas Anderson with Charlie Kaufman. And his shooting on 35mm adds a warm texture to the film.

As the lines between reality and Jane’s hallucinations begin to blur, the audience is left wondering what is real and what is not. It’s a clever trick that gives you a knowing sense what it’s like to live in Jane’s world. However, this begins to get uneven in the third act. Without a bit of a linear path to follow, confusion started to set and I begin to check out.

It is Hawkins who keeps you invested in the story. Her portrayal of another offbeat, quirky character in 2017’s The Shape of Water took her all the way to an Academy Award nomination, and she channels that same subtle energy here, infusing Jane with delicate physical quirks, sly giggles and a gentle personality, all of which make her immediately endearing.

About Janine

Janine is a dedicated fan of the 1940 film Kitty Foyle, directed by Sam Wood, written by Dalton Trumbo and starring Ginger Rogers, who won an Oscar for her portrayal. And seeing that film is all it took to make her a lifelong movie lover. Janine is excited to add her insights to the great team at