Drawn to grief by unthinkable loss, surrounded by a world so unfair and unjust, one man navigates the deepest and cruellest pits of his heart to find his life again. Very highly criticised upon its release early this week, star-studded Collateral Beauty battles within its ability to connect with some (like me) and hopelessly crash for others.
The film unfolds with Will Smith as Howard, the guiding figure at a New York City agency in partnership with Edward Norton, Kate Winslet and Michael Pena. But after the death of his six-year-old daughter and inevitably the collapse of his marriage, Howard’s professional capabilities breakdown and his sanity slowly deteriorates. His coping mechanisms compel him to write letters to abstracts – Time, Love and Death – while lurking around, but never entering, a help centre for grieving parents. As time goes on, Howard begins to learn that although time can take, it can also give new hope.
The screenplay glides with literary allusions, visual effects are sparing and beautiful, the cast is excellent and award-winning director David Frankel, who scored success with The Devil Wears Prada and Marley & Me, brings a level of philosophical sophistication to the film very rare in contemporary Hollywood. The combination of Helen Mirren, Jacob Latimore and Kiera Knightley as Death, Time and Love, and Edward Norton, Kate Winslet and Michael Pena as Howard’s best friends, helps to carry the heart and soul of the film. Considering Will Smith clenches his jaw throughout the majority of the film, unable to express himself outside of his grief, the supporting actors challenge him impressively through outlets of existentialism, whilst visibly fighting their own wars. Collateral Beauty contains a very impressive outlook on life and the fabric of human emotion.
As it turns out, Will Smith’s own father was diagnosed with Cancer three weeks into filming. As Will Smith mentioned in a recent interview, “Having to face my father’s impending death while working on the struggles of my character, helped us to connect.” This is precisely the mesmerising character struggle that rises in Will Smith, to be able to showcase his personal grief on both an artificial and personal backdrop of hopelessness.
“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.”
Collateral Beauty might have crashed for some, but just like me (and everyone in the cinema around me who cried in the hypnotising emotional build up), the film explored philosophy and humanity in a way that was insightful, captivating and completely wonderful.
Imdb – 6.5/10 Rotten Tomatoes – 12%