You can tell Craig Roberts has worked with Richard Ayoade. The boxy framing, the quirky colourings and generally awkward sensibilities feel very much like they could have come out of the British sit-com stars directorial wheelhouse. Roberts’ second outing as a director comes in the form of Eternal Beauty, the story of a paranoid schizophrenic played by Sally Hawkins and also starring Billie Piper, Penelope Wilton & Alice Lowe.
I found Eternal Beauty to be an uncomfortable mixed bag. On the one hand, I loved the aesthetics: it reminded me of Ayoade’s Submarine and The Double in how it was shot and the colours and framing were always eye-catching. On the other, I just didn’t get it from a story point of view. The focus is on Hawkins, who is always watchable, and her characters struggles with a horrible mental illness, but I was never sure how I should feel and what the film was trying to tell me. We see Jane (Hawkins) on her descent into illness through flip-flopping from the past to present, signalling to us the supposed issues she’s faced and the possible reasons why she’s come up against them. Yet the tone of the film seems to flirt between serious drama and dark comedy – a balance that needs to be struck correctly when dealing with such a serious issue and I never think it was.
By the end, I felt like I should be laughing at Hawkins rather than having any sympathy for her situation – a position that made me feel very uncomfortable and a little disturbed. I don’t think this was Roberts’ intention, but the balance felt massively off.