Collateral Beauty is a bittersweet drama that could be either a tough watch, or cathartic, for anyone feeling the pain of loss during the holiday season. If I had to pick a target demographic, I’d go with fans of A Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, or (to allude to something more current) the television drama This Is Us. It’s about finding the good – the collateral beauty – when life hurls a few ugly curveballs.
The film features a superb ensemble cast led by Will Smith (Concussion, The Pursuit of Happyness). He plays Howard, a successful advertising executive who essentially stops living – and working – after the death of his six-year-old daughter. He isolates himself and writes letters to Time, Death, and Love, blasting those universal elements for failing him so profoundly. He’s in such a deep funk that he fails to notice or care that his business is in jeopardy. So three of his friends and co-workers (Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Michael Peña) hatch a plan to have him declared incompetent to run the company. It seems rather cruel, but their motives are sincere. They hire a trio of actors to ‘play’ Time (Jacob Latimore), Death (Helen Mirren), and Love (Keira Knightley). Each one of them visits Howard, to defend themselves against his literary rants. The scheme has some unexpected and profound effects on Howard, the actors, and his friends. The cast also includes Naomi Harris as Madeline, a woman who runs a support group for parents who’ve lost children.
The trailer is the film’s premise in its entirety. So take a look. If you like what you see in the trailer, you’ll probably like the movie. Can it compete with all the awards-season fare rolling into theaters? Probably not. But it’s a heartwarming, heartbreaking, and life-affirming chick flick that’s worth keeping an eye out for when it hits the streaming/rental circuit. And yes, you’ll want to keep a tissue handy.