David Frankel’s Collateral Beauty is deeply moving.
It has a beautiful script that’s brought to life by brilliant actors. No one can question the star power of this film because its ensemble cast includes some of the most talented actors in the industry. The stellar cast is a combination of Oscar winners and nominees; that should be enough reason to go watch this film.
Howard (Will Smith) is a grieving ad agency hotshot. He recently lost his daughter and that tremendously affected his work. He’s basically lost the will to live. He goes through his daily routine like a zombie, without really achieving anything. He spends most of his time sulking and one night, he writes three letters to love, time, and death, the three abstractions. His partners, Whit (Edward Norton), Claire (Kate Winslet), and Simon (Michael Pena) are doing their best to be supportive of their friend but they’re also trying to save their sinking company.
They then decide to do something extreme and hire three actors to play Love (Kiera Knightley), Time (Jacob Latimore), and Death (Helen Mirren) to basically gaslight Howard so he can be deemed unfit to run the agency and they can finally get the voting rights to sell the failing company.
It’s a little reminiscent of the classic Charles Dickens novel, A Christmas Carol, but provides a different kind of introspection.
And that’s what I loved most about the film. It will compel you to look closer into your own existence; to your core. It will make you question what your ‘why’ is; it will make you assess your life choices:
Did you spend way too much time on one particular aspect of your life that you neglected the more important things like keeping a family together or starting a family?
Have you become self-righteous that you think you know what’s best for your loved ones even if it means keeping them in the dark about something important?
How much more can you grieve about someone/something?
When do you accept things and move on?
Allan Loeb crafted an impactful script. It does verge on being cheesy at times but it hits the spot every single time. Its messages are on point and while it’s mostly depressing, the story provides a poignant reminder of the passing of time and how it’s important for us to not waste it and see the collateral beauty in all things.
Howard represents a lot of us: successful yet empty. He just lost his reason for living and while he has all the right in the world to be mad, he starts to neglect his responsibility to his company. He’s lost, furious, and has no direction.
His unwillingness to accept his fate has affected the other areas of his life. He has supportive friends but he can’t see it because he’s too wrapped up in his grief.
His selfishness is masked by his grief. You can consider it a convenient excuse for neglecting responsibilities but it’s real. It mirrors a lot of us. Many of us are too wrapped up in our own grief that we forget others depend on us for their existence too. We forget that others are also going through their own problems but choose to continue living.
Whit, Claire, and Simon are great reminders of how important friends are. They’re imperfect but their genuine concern for Howard is their redeeming quality. They made questionable choices but they stemmed from a place of concern. What they don’t realize is that by trying to help Howard, they are also helping themselves.
It’s interesting to note how the movie is set during the holidays in New York City, where it’s all fun and busy. But despite all these, Howard lives in a gloomy place. It’s a good metaphor to how many of us feel during low points in our lives. You may be surrounded by people yet feel so completely alone.
It will take a lot of effort to hold back tears especially when you get to the third act. Smith’s breakdown scene is painful; you’ll be moved to tears.
Collateral Beauty is beautiful. It’s impactful, inspiring, and compelling. Once you get past emotional roller coaster, you’ll realize that it provides the simple answers to life’s complicated questions.
We long for love.
We wish for more time.
We fear death.
Life doesn’t get any simpler than that. And the moment you come to terms with that, you should be able to find it easier to deal with whatever life throws at you.
Photo credits: Warner Bros. Pictures