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"ETERNAL BEAUTY"
(2020) (Sally Hawkins, Alice Lowe) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Drama: A young woman and her family try to contend with her being a paranoid schizophrenic.
PLOT:

Having been jilted on her wedding day back when she was a much younger woman (MORFYDD CLARK), Jane (SALLY HAWKINS) has since suffered from mental illness, including now being diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. She can still function to some degree in everyday life, but her behavior certainly puts a strain on her parents, Vivian (PENELOPE WILTON) and Dennis (ROBERT PUGH), and sisters Nicola (BILLIE PIPER) and Alice (ALICE LOWE).

While the latter seems the most adjusted of the bunch -- married to Tony (PAUL HILTON) with whom she has a 9-year-old son, Jack (SPENCER DEERE) -- Nicola, who's dating Lucy (RITA BERNARD-SHAW), looks down on Jane's behavior but then wants to imitate that for welfare checks, although she may be suffering from mental illness herself.

Always contending with a voice on the phone that seems to control much of her behavior, Jane finally seems to find happiness when she starts dating Mike (DAVID THEWLIS), a musician and fellow psychiatric patient. But with her condition -- especially when she's off her medication -- making reality uncertain, it's unclear how things will turn out for the woman.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10

While my statistically small sample pool and related observation mean I probably have no idea what I'm talking about regarding such matters, I think women internalize issues more than men and let them swirl around in their heads and thus cause sleepless nights far more often than we guys do.

For most people, that's just an ordinary fact of life where the brain won't turn off while searching for answers. For some others, however, that can be a sign of mental illness, be that something as irritating but usually manageable like OCD or ADHD to near completely debilitating conditions such as split personality disorder, schizophrenia, or perhaps the worst of them all, paranoid schizophrenia.

The latter is in play in writer/director Craig Roberts' sophomore feature-length outing, "Eternal Beauty." In that, Oscar-nominated actress Sally Hawkins ("The Shape of Water," "Blue Jasmine") plays a middle-aged woman suffering from the above malady. When we first meet Jane, she's walking along outside an apartment complex where a phone call sends her back into a memory of being a young woman (played by Morfydd Clark) going to the chapel because, as the Crystals once sang, she's gonna get married.

But then the groom doesn't show and the lyrics "Today's the day, we'll say, "I do" and we'll never be lonely anymore" suddenly no longer apply. We then see young Jane pleading on the phone with her groom, wondering what she did wrong. That call ends and we're whisked back to the present where the payphone stops ringing and Jane can go about her way.

And that's when we learn there's some unique and unusual about her as she informs her sister, Nicola (Billie Piper), and parents (Penelope Wilton and Robert Pugh) that she's decided to buy herself her own Christmas gifts from them and then proceeds to present them with the receipt for which she wants to be reimbursed. She also does this to her other sister, Alice (Alice Lowe), who puts up with her odd behavior, unlike that woman's husband, Tony (Paul Hilton), who can barely hold his tongue while their nine-year-old son (Spencer Deere) doesn't seem to react either way.

As the story unfolds -- including Jane's visit to her psychiatrist and later falling for another patient (David Thewlis) who recognizes her in the doctor's office -- and Jane keeps getting somewhat creepy phone calls from her never seen "boyfriend," we soon begin to question whether the jilted at the altar thing ever really occurred or is just another manifestation of the woman's illness.

Hawkins is absolutely terrific, expertly mixing the pathos, exhilaration, depression, uncertainty, and more into a certainly believable character beset by a malfunctioning brain and all that entails for her day-to-day existence. Supporting performances are good all around, and Roberts gets creative at times in visually portraying Jane's ever-changing mental processing and functioning.

All of which, along with little touches of dark humor, prevents this offering from becoming too much of a downer, something that easily could have happened without the various nuances and deft touches. While it might not appeal to everyone, I liked "Eternal Beauty" quite a bit, especially as related to Hawkins' performance.

It could result in her third Oscar nomination should this flick be considered for such accolades in this year where the pandemic has upended the film world and its various rules. I'm guessing plenty of industry people are losing sleep as their minds race at night trying to figure out what's going to happen with movies. But the actress should be able to sleep well at night, knowing she gave it her all for this offering that rates as a 6.5 out of 10.




Reviewed September 28, 2020 / Posted October 2, 2020


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