Written and directed by #CraigRoberts
For his second feature film, actor turned writer-director Craig Roberts has taken on the daunting task of shooting #EternalBeauty entirely on 35mm film. If this wasn’t enough of an ambitious feat, Roberts directs his #Submarine co-star, the incomparable Sally Hawkins, in the lead role. Hawkins’ plays June, a woman living with schizophrenia, who was left at the altar by her fiancée for her best friend. Roberts’ based the character of June on a family member who he grew up with and he refers to her illness as her “superpower”. Mental illness is reframed as a strength in Eternal Beauty by resisting conventional tropes and not shying away from portraying the positives, as well as the negatives, in June’s life.
The film follows June as she navigates everyday life and her complicated family dynamics. Predominantly focused as a character study, Hawkins’ is magnetic in the role and her supporting cast members include David Thewlis, Billie Piper, Alice Lowe and Penelope Wilton, playing friends and family members who come in and out of the story. None of these characters feel as fleshed out as June, reinforcing the fragmented nature of her family life and of her everyday reality. The film opens with the tragedy that acts as a catalyst for June’s breakdown, which haunts her throughout the film as she experiences acts of betrayal. The narrative follows how these moments of tragedy mixed with moments of comedy and happiness impact her life and her stability. The result is a film full of the complexities of life, which is a fitting tribute to its real life inspiration.
The attention to detail in the film is heightened through the use of 35mm film and the carefully considered composition of shots. At times, it feels like you’re watching a home video as shots linger on June’s face in close up as she interacts with family members with the image looking rich and grainy, as if looking back on past memories. The fragmentary structure along with the scattered timeline of events employed within the narrative mirrors June’s reality, helping to create a dreamlike quality that lends it an air of magical realism. The film succeeds in hitting a dark tone with moments of comedic relief, which rarely feels heavy handed. While it’s a stylistically bold and inventive exploration which succeeds in what it sets out to do, there are moments which feel like they could have been developed further. The main focus appears, at times, to be beholden with the use of 35mm film and Hawkins’ central performance.
As the credits roll, the daring and bold Eternal Beauty leaves a lasting impression. Craig Roberts’ reframes the narrative surrounding mental illness by choosing not to shy away from showing both the cruelty in June’s illness and the joy she gets from her life. This complex portrayal makes Eternal Beauty one to watch.