Eternal Beauty

Movie review by
Tracey Petherick, Common Sense Media
Eternal Beauty Movie Poster Image
Intense mental illness drama has dark humor, salty language.
  • R
  • 2020
  • 95 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The value of family and importance of supporting the ones you love is a key theme, although it's largely expressed by revealing the shocking and negative impact of most of the characters' lack of compassion or empathy. Mental illness is portrayed in a hopeful and non-stigmatized manner, without shying away from some of the challenges it can cause. The message that "normal is boring" is delivered with a certain irony, but also with positive connotations.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Jane can be warm, gentle, and well-meaning, at times showing inner strength amid her paranoid schizophrenia. She can also be irrational, unreasonable, and out of control. The people around her show very few positive character traits, although her sister Alice clearly loves and cares for her, doing her best under difficult circumstances.

Violence

Parent hits their teenage offspring. Character screams for help as they are dragged out of their house by psychiatric nurses. They are later restrained while in hospital. Character receives electric shock therapy.

Sex

Character clenches their fist to show being turned on. Characters kiss and later have sex, fully clothed. One sex scene sees a character straddling another -- they are naked from the waist up, but the scene is filmed from behind.

Language

Several instances of "s--t" and variants of "f--k." Also "bulls--t," "silly buggers," "bloody," and obscene finger gestures.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Multiple scenes have characters drinking alcohol, either at a dinner table at home, or in a pub, or restaurant. No explicitly drunken behavior is shown. Infrequent cigarette smoking. Several instances of characters taking prescription drugs.  

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Eternal Beauty is a brilliant, yet intense, British drama about mental illness with some distressing scenes and strong language but also some comedic moments. Sally Hawkins plays Jane, a woman diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. The movie offers a no-holds-barred insight into how mental illness was treated -- both medically and culturally -- in the 1970s and 1980s. Jane is seen being dragged out of her house by psychiatric nurses and there are distressing scenes involving shock therapy. Darkly comic, with warm and tender moments dotted throughout, the story is nevertheless bleak, shining an unforgiving light on a family struggling to cope. There is bad language throughout, including variants of "f--k" and "s--t." There also brief sex scenes, although these are not explicit nor do they feature any graphic nudity. With powerful themes around anxiety and depression, it is best-suited to emotionally mature teens.

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What's the story?

ETERNAL BEAUTY tells the story of Jane (Sally Hawkins), a middle-aged woman who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia after being jilted on her wedding day many years ago. Now living semi-independently, she relies on medication to help control her mood swings, hallucinations, and tendency to hear voices. When she meets Mike (David Thewlis), a musician with his own mental health challenges, she begins to see life differently and decides to stop taking her pills. But this new romance, as well as difficult relationships with her dysfunctional family, may not be what Jane needs to bring stability and happiness to her life.

Is it any good?

Raw, imaginative, and eye-opening, this darkly comic drama is a haunting insight into mental illness in the 1970s and 1980s -- though you can't help wondering how much has changed since then. Hawkins gives an incredible performance as paranoid schizophrenic Jane, as warm and well-meaning as she is unreasonable and unnerving. With a supporting cast including a vile Penelope Wilton, an odious Billie Piper, and an anguished Alice Lowe, we know we are in safe -- if somber -- hands.  

As the drama switches between real life and Jane's troubled imagination, we’re often left wondering how much of this disturbing experience is reality or fantasy. But while it may be painful to watch, there is a sensitivity to the storytelling that is testament to writer-director Craig Roberts' talent -- having the intuition to be both restrained and outlandish. He even manages some moments of tenderness and levity. It's hard to pull off humor amid such a bleak tale, but much of the comedy -- though dark and often steeped in irony -- is well-judged. You won't walk away feeling uplifted, but you will have seen some glimmers of hope in an otherwise tragic tale of tortured souls.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the way mental illness is depicted in Eternal Beauty. How is Jane's illness treated -- both medically and culturally? Did it seem a realistic portrayal to you? How do you think things have changed since the 1970s and 1980s, when the movie was set? 

  • Talk about the strong language in the movie. Does it seem necessary or excessive? What does it contribute to the movie?

  • How is sex portrayed in the movie. Is it affectionate? Respectful? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.

  • Although many of the film's characters are flawed, they are also realistic. Are any of them good role models? Did you relate to any of them? 

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love powerful drama

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