Stars: Sally Hawkins, Alice Lowe, Billie Piper, Penelope Wilton, David Thewlis, Robert Pugh
Actor-turned-director Craig Roberts’ debut feature is a bold but puzzling darkly comic portrait of a woman with mental health issues that are exacerbated by her dysfunctional family.
Sally Hawkins is Jane, a slightly built schizophrenic, who, in her early twenties, had a breakdown after being stood up at the altar. She now lives by herself in a small flat furnished in an artfully kitschy way (think council estate squalor as reimagined by Wes Anderson).
In an amusing early introductory sequence, Jane returns to the family home with her sisters, the sympathetic, married Alice (Lowe), and selfish, brassy Nicola (Piper), for a Christmas dinner hosted by spiky, bitter mum Vivian (Wilton) and passive dad (Pugh). There Jane hands them each the presents she actually wanted so they can hand them back to her – her rationale being they never get her what she wants.
When Jane comes off her meds, she becomes increasingly manic, and although she feels more alive, she begins to have disturbing visions. Around this time, Jane also meets the equally-wired oddball musician Mike (Thewlis), and they move in together.
While there’s no questioning the star and director’s commitments to this darkly whimsical material - Hawkins exhibits her adeptness as a physical performer, and unearths humour in the queasiest of situations, while Roberts effectively illustrates Jane’s shifting mental states with subtle and not-so-subtle light shifts, and distorted camera angles – it’s hard to ascertain what this is all in the service of, and, as it meanders along, audiences may start to feel as bleary and narcotized as its heroine.
Eternal Beauty is released 2nd October
David Willoughby @DWill_Crackfilm