Retreating from life after a tragedy, a man questions the universe by writing to Love, Time and Death. Receiving unexpected answers, he begins to see how these things interlock and how even loss can reveal moments of meaning and beauty.
Howard (Will Smith) was once a successful businessman, husband, and father. When a rare form of cancer takes his daughter’s life when she is six years old, Howard falls deep into his grief and is unable to pull himself back into life. His best friends, also his business partners, team up to form a plan to force Howard to learn to cope with life without his daughter. Whit (Edward Norton) stumbles across three actors (Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren, and Jacob Latimore) and formulates a plan to have the actors respond to the letters Howard wrote to Love, Death, and Time. If Howard can confront the sources of his anger, maybe he can return to the land of the living instead of play with dominoes.
The grief-stricken father spends his days in his head, whether he is at work building intricate domino buildings, sitting at a dog park, or staring at the wall in his apartment. His inner fortress is broken first by death (Helen Mirren) who confronts him at the park forcing him to talk about his anger. Time (Jacob Latimore) follows Howard to work to bash him about his inconsiderate letter verbally. Love (Kiera Knightly) cries through an apology as Howard tries to figure out if he is crazy or if the lack of sleep and food have finally rendered him insane. Whit, along with well-meaning Claire (Kate Winslet) and Simon (Michael Pena), requests the actors to perform one more time to bring the sledgehammer down on the inner battle in Howard’s mind. This time they have Howard followed and taped when Love, Death, and Time publicly confronts him. The team digitally alter the videos to remove the actors before confronting Howard.
With visible proof of his lapse, in reality, Howard thanks his friends and moves on to the next stage in the grieving process. With the help of a support group and a beautiful woman who has also lost a child (Naomie Harris), Howard learns to live again. Meanwhile, Whit, Simon, and Claire each realize they have something in common with Howard, anger towards the universe. Whit wants the love of his daughter after his divorce. Simon is dying and has issues with death for cutting his life short. Claire spent so much time working she never made time for a husband or a baby. Now all four friends must learn to move on and confront the universe.
Pull out your tissues and be ready to cry. Will Smith is unparalleled in his ability to play a grieving parent. Mind you, I have been a Will Smith fan since “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” but you do not think of a smart-ass rapper when Howard pedals his unrelenting grief onto the streets of NYC. I wanted to reach out and hug him; the pain was so evident in his eyes and posture. I can see how maybe some would say his grief was overstated, but come on, when you lose a child, your heart falls out. Let me tell you this movie is an emotional ride.
The cuteness of the friend’s plot seems like the overarching plot to the movie before being released like a balloon halfway through. What this film really is, is a film of friends helping friends cope in their own way and time without judgment. A beautiful testament to the heart of camaraderie. I want friends who are willing to go to this length (although I bet my friends would if they could afford to pay actors twenty grand for ten minutes of stage time) to snatch me out of the self-deprecating inner monolog during my anguish. Think of “Collateral Beauty” as a non-Christmasy version of “A Christmas Carol,” but instead of ghosts, you have well-meaning friends. Definitely a good hook to grab an audience.
The only thing preventing me from giving “Collateral Beauty” five stars, is the twist and turns go too far and ruin the essence of the film. No, I am not going to tell you about the twists, you still need to watch the movie because the impressive cast and acting warrant a watch. However, the ending was way off course, and I am a person willing to take road trips in my movie watching, but let’s keep the twists realistic. With a couple of unsavory detours, the movie rewards with one very tasty twist, which again I will not be giving away here. But, this bit helped redeem the other parts. Despite the odd direction of the plot, the actors are what make this movie worth watching. I much prefer a movie focusing on the aftermath than the storm, which I hope will help me not to focus on the ridiculous ending. Either way, the movie is now available on Blu-ray and DVD or at your local Redbox, definitely worth your time and money.
Now available on Blu-ray & DVD