A good movie can do many things. When it comes to subject matter as sensitive as mental health, it can be insightful, impactful and, above all, thought-provoking. Unfortunately, Eternal Beauty is none of these things and more.
Still, the acting’s first class, but that’s the only positive in this mishmash of a psychological suck-fest.
Which is a shame because there was real potential for this to be a genuinely touching piece of filmmaking. However, because it sets its stall out to sit squarely in black comedy territory, it’s unable to handle the delicate balance that’s required to make the afflicted protagonist one we can sympathise with.
And, by the way, a black comedy that isn’t funny. There’s a few moments of note in the first fifteen minutes, and then, rather than go steadily downhill, the whole thing suddenly drives off a cliff-edge. After the stage is set, there’s just nowhere to go and therefore no hiding place for the poor script, direction and editing.
The heroine in question is Jane (Sally Hawkins), who is sent on the slippery road to schizophrenia after being stood up on her wedding day. Hawkins, whom you may know from Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace and Layer Cake, plays jilted Jane superbly well, and her performance reminds you in some ways of Daniel Day-Lewis‘s legendary turn in My Left Foot. The fact that some of the ‘better’ scenes are when Jane’s dialogue is at a minimum, is a measure of how the script wastes such a talented cast, which also includes Billie Piper, Penelope Wilton and David Thewlis.
As well as no fresh angle, nor insight into mental heath issues, it lacks a real underlying theme. All we learn is that writer and director Craig Roberts has a problem with Christmas, although he does put the more annoying aspects of the festive season to rights quite well. However, this is also confined to the opening quarter of an hour; the rest of the time it’s choc-a-block with things you see coming a mile off, and jumps from one scene to the next with no explanation. Jane’s journey is in there somewhere, but trying to find it just adds to the frustration, so we end up not caring about her at all.
To give you an idea, this is not unlike an artsy-European flick that might crop up at 1am on Film Four. In fact, I was half-expecting subtitles to appear and the cast to start speaking in Swedish (which might be your idea of heaven).
Don’t be fooled by the two stars; if it weren’t for accomplished performances from the cast, this would be lucky to get just the one. Eternal Beauty is out now, which is great news if you fancy buying an alternative stocking filler to a tangerine this year.