Welsh actor and director Craig Roberts’ second directorial feature film Eternal Beauty (2019) is a stunning but painful insight into the intensity and severity of the long-term mental health condition schizophrenia. The film, led by the brilliant Sally Hawkins as main character Jane, explores themes of love, life, and loss, whilst maintaining a sense of strength and empowerment for those struggling to cope with debilitating conditions.
Roberts, known mostly for his role as the lead in Richard Ayoade’s 2010 coming-of-age film Submarine, brings a compelling narrative to our screens with the story of Eternal Beauty. After being left at the altar some 20 years ago, a young and energetic Jane feels her world begin to crumble around her as she spirals into a horrifically crippling manic episode, marking the point in which schizophrenia starts to take over her life. Struggling with relationships of any type such as with friends and family, Jane allows herself to be shut away from the outside world, confined to the walls of her drab, damp, beige-coloured apartment. Her home feels like a prison of sorts, keeping her away from the outside world that may perceive her as ‘weird’ or ‘scary’. By witnessing interactions with her sister Alice’s (Alice Lowe) family, we soon see that Jane is a charming and bubbly woman, however it is soon clear that her condition is controlling her every word and move.
Jane’s introduction at the beginning of the film allows for a moment of judgment which Roberts forces upon the viewer in a way that allows him to quickly shatter expectations and said judgments. Whilst Jane’s life appears somber and chaotic, her personality is both endearing and quirky. You are drawn into the person she truly is behind the condition and become extremely empathetic whenever her character is hurt and attacked. Scenarios in which Jane appears uncomfortable in, for example when she meets up with her nasty sister Nicola (Billie Piper) for Christmas, makes us the audience feel the desire to step in and stand up for her.
The changing point of the film happens when Jane meets the charming Mike (David Thewlis), who also happens to suffer from mental health struggles. As a struggling musician and lighthearted comic, Mike offers Jane happiness she hasn’t felt since 20 years prior, but is it too good to be true?
Craig Roberts manages to study both the brain and the heart in a way that creates a lighthearted atmosphere that brings you into Jane’s life, allowing her struggles to become your own as you hope for her improvement and value her ever-growing strength. Eternal Beauty is a difficult watch, but a rewarding one to say the least. Humour and heartbreak make Roberts’ latest production a brilliant success that should be watched by all!
Eternal Beauty, directed by Craig Roberts is available to stream now on MUBI, Certificate 15. Watch the trailer below: