Review by Sean Boelman
Craig Roberts’s romantic comedy Eternal Beauty earns significant points for trying to be something greater than the genre usually offers, but it doesn’t always turn that promise into something satisfying. Sometimes unabashedly quirky and weird and other times too conventional to make much of an impact, this film is frustrating because it shows so much potential of what it could have been.
The movie follows a woman who, suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, finds a new lust for life after finding love in unexpected places. The overall arc of the film is a pretty straightforward rom-com, and all the beats are there, but the hyperactive way in which Roberts goes about telling them gives the movie an undeniably infectious energy.
One of the things that is somewhat off-putting here is that the film can’t seem to settle on a particular tone. There are moments that are bright and ditsy and others that are somber and meditative. And Roberts struggles to find a way to effectively fuse these pieces together into a cohesive and fulfilling whole.
Perhaps the area in which the movie shows the most unrealized promise is in its commentary. Although the protagonist’s quest for love despite her struggle with mental illness takes up a majority of the runtime, the more interesting aspect of the story is actually her relationship with her family, which provides for some of the most insightful and authentic scenes in the film.
The protagonist is a compelling character but more work needed to have been done with the supporting players. It’s clear that the intention with the character is for him to be a complement to the protagonist, similar in personality but having issues of his own, and yet Roberts fails to take this dynamic beyond the surface level.
That said, Sally Hawkins gives an absolutely wonderful performance as the lead, saving the movie from what may have otherwise been a massive misfire. David Thewlis gives another performance that is very out there, as has been the case with so much of his work in recent years. And in the supporting cast, Billie Piper does a solid job even if she is underused.
There are also some really interesting things happening with the film’s style. When Roberts isn’t afraid to go all-out on the weirdness, the movie benefits, as those are the moments when it feels like he is creating something truly individualistic. The use of color and framing of the film go a long way in creating that invitingly odd tone.
Eternal Beauty is definitely an interesting watch, but it also doesn’t live up to the level of greatness to which it likely should have. Still, if only for the excellent performance by Sally Hawkins, it is worth the time to see it.
Eternal Beauty is now available on VOD.