Movie Review: Collateral Beauty

I have looked forward to seeing this movie since previews aired late this summer at the movie theater. The storyline intrigued me and the tag line…We are all connected…caught my interest as well. This afternoon I took time to slip away and enjoy watching this thought provoking movie. 

Collateral Beauty stars Will Smith, Edward Norton, Helen Mirren, Kate Winslet, Kiera Knightly, Michael Peña, Jacob Latimore and Naomie Harris. This drama was directed by David Frankel and carries a PG-13 rating for brief strong language. The movie has a run time of 1 hour and 37 minutes. 

Howard (Smith) is a successful executive with a NYC advertising agency, whose life takes a tragic turn. His young daughter dies. Life becomes too much to bear. He withdraws from his business partners and friends, Whit (Norton), Claire (Winslet) and Simon (Peña), and from life itself. As the company he helped to build loses momentum and is threatened with ruin, Howard flings out painful questions to the universe. 

He writes letters to Love (Knightly), Time (Latimore) and Death (Mirren). Unexpectedly, Howard meets each entity and begins to learn about the connectedness of all people and all things. He opens up a tiny bit, to a grief counselor named Madeleine (Harris), who helps parents after the loss of a child. Madeleine has journeyed through that heartbreaking and life changing experience herself. She believes Howard, when he shares that Love, Time and Death are having conversations with him. And she shares that as her daughter was dying, a woman she had never met before encouraged her to look for the collateral beauty. 

In the midst of these impossible encounters with otherworldly beings, and difficult but healing conversations with Madeleine, Howard discovers his business partners are doing whatever it takes to save the company, even if they must oppose him. Each of his partners, his friends, have challenges of their own to deal with. All of their lives are impacted by Love, Time and Death. 

This was an amazing and poignant story, full of sorrow, humor and hope. Will Smith’s character references Love, Time and Death at the beginning of the film, before tragedy befell him. He says, “We’re here to connect. Love, time, death. Now these three things connect every single human being on earth. We long for love, we wish we had more time, and we fear death.”  These three have much to say, to Howard, to his friends, to the audience, watching this story unfold. 

While I have, gratefully, been spared the loss that Howard suffered, I am no stranger to angst nor to throwing out questions that seem unanswerable. We have all been in that position. The whys, the what ifs, they have peppered our journeys, and kept us chained to past events, kept us from moving forward, prevented us from seeing the collateral beauty. This movie was painful to watch at times, and yet, I wanted to see Howard’s questions answered. In hearing responses to his pain, I could access my own. 

The collateral beauty aspect was thought provoking. I know from experience that from my most difficult times has come growth and revelation and awareness…all forms of collateral beauty. It is possible, even after the unimaginable happens, to see the beauty that exists around us, and see in that beauty, the wonder, the connectedness of all things. That beauty helps us to remember that we are part of a larger story that is unfolding. 

This was an extremely well done movie. There were twists and turns and a big reveal near the end that made me smile through tears and appreciate the cleverness of the writers. I adore cleverness. And Collateral Beauty, along with many worthy traits, is certainly clever. And haunting. And beautiful. I’ll be thinking about this film for days to come.