By Roger Costa
ETERNAL BEAUTY ⭐⭐⭐⭐
A courageous, chameleonic and limitless talented actress who impressively and admirably transforms herself into her characters, Oscar nominated Sally Hawkins is a unique force. Since her most popular performance, in director Mike Leigh’s “Happy Go Lucky”, the British actress has conquered the screen, with her firm, hypnotic presence, as well as her incredible balance between the comic and the dramatic. In her latest characterization, Hawkins defies herself once again, as she embodies a mentally-ill, frustrated and traumatized fragile figure, the result of a broken-hearted relationship, and a selfish, dysfunctional family who had always pushed her to the side- and to the doctors and prescription drugs.
Darkly comic and utterly touching, actor turned Writer-Director Craig Roberts’ winning sophomore effort instantly puts him on the radar, as one of the most promising young filmmakers. Demonstrating a rare sensibility, accuracy with the material, and ability to generate reflective and funny contexts in balanced tones, Roberts conceived an insightful, entertaining and highly emotional look at a broken family and a woman’s quest for freedom, fulfillment and sanity. Plus, he masterly coordinates an extraordinary cast, giving Hawkins the opportunity to shine in another victorious role, and fabulously convincing secondary actors, bringing attention to the freshly open 2020 Award-season. Curiously, Hawkins had played Roberts’ mother twice previously, first in Submarine (2010, for which he was Awarded Best Actor by BAFTA and London Critics Circle) and then in Jane Eyre (2011).
Another attribute in the film’s highly satisfying results is the way the narrative is conducted, magically blending flashbacks with the current action: through memories, the film presents the story of how she was abandoned at the altar, and the mistreat, manipulation and jealousy she had to endure under her own roof throughout her entire life. Also, the visuals are great and reflects her dreamlike condition, sometimes evoking “Requiem for a Dream”. Caused by her abandonment and her family’s negligence, Jane continues to suffer from depression and anxiety, still seeing visions and listening to voices coming from the walls. But the film openly assumes a justifying position, putting the blame over the family, as they didn’t know how to deal with her early signals of madness. They simply sends her off to a clinic as a relief of their humanitarian obligation, leading her to a life of controlled-substance dependence. Many times Jane insists in stopping taking the medication, but her family pushes her deeper and deeper into her condition, never allowing her for a chance to cure. Even when she meets another patient, the lunatic Mike (David Thewlis), as an attempt to restore companionship and the long gone sentiment of love in her life, the family says differently and opposes it. A drastic conclusion to her short affair, scandalously presents how despicable one of her relatives could be.
Director Roberts explores everyone’s reasons, as well as both protective and abusive manners, while punctuating the story with the effects, emotional, physical and chemical, experienced by Jane. An accomplished anti-drug statement, and an uplifting redemptive story, it proves her condition only needed love, acceptance and space (which was constantly taken from her).
Funny and poignant, it’s a crowd-pleasing, thoughtful surprise.
(Samuel Goldwyn Films. Available Now on VOD and other digital platforms.)