Collateral Beauty: To Be Or Not To Be

When Howard, the CEO of a New York advertising firm suffers a great tragedy, he begins to hate life. While his deeply caring friends try to reconnect with him, he seeks answers from the otherworldly and the intangible by writing letters, not to people but to abstractions: Love, Time and Death. When these things start to appear in tangible forms, he begins to see how these abstractions impact a fulfilled life, and even the most heartbreaking loss can reveal fragments of meaning and beauty.

Every tragedy is followed by beauty but as we are drowned in grief and discontent, we tend to look past the beauty in the ugliness of grief. Collateral is often followed by damage. We often do things and accept the consequences, not matter how catastrophic they are. Though, we don’t look at the beauty in the destruction caused. This is probably one of the deepest movies I watched in 2016 and it’s one of those few movies made for mass cinema release that really makes you turn your mental cogs.

Will Smith plays Howard, a man wrought with grief and life’s worst enemy
(Collateral Beauty, Warner Bros.)

As with many films in 2016, the critics turned their noses up at it but I really liked it because it really puts things into perspective. This movie really makes you think about your own life. Mortality is the burden of the human race. We long for love, we wish we had more time and we all will meet our maker. Death, an appointment we all must keep but one for which no date is set. Time, love and death are the big three abstractions that motivate us. They’re not absolute, nor are they fixed. They will follow us everywhere. They’re sensitive to everything and everyone whilst constantly changing forms. In all the harsh realities we witness in our lifetime, these three follow us like a bad smell.

I really enjoyed this movie. It’s a drama and it’s a slow to unfold, but can’t life be a little slow and drama-filled? In a little movie called Café Society, a character says “life is a comedy written by a sadistic comedy writer.” Collateral Beauty brings that quote home. Some bits will make you laugh, cry, angry and feel a great deal other things but the ironies of life are sadistic to the core. The performances throughout Collateral Beauty represent life’s harsh realities but some of the good as well. The philosophy is like Beckett’s Endgame but simultaneously, the masses can understand it if they adapt their thinking to their own daily situations.

Howard (Will Smith) with Love/Amy in Collateral Beauty
(Collateral Beauty, Warner Bros.)

This film is sincere in its dialogue and its meaning. We must all respect our own mortality. One day our time will run out, love isn’t absolute and we will die. Nothing lasts forever. You’ll either get it or you won’t. There’s no middle ground. I really liked the performances of the cast, especially Will Smith who gives his best performance to date. When Will Smith isn’t playing Will Smith, he can really deliver some cracking performances. He gives a more emotional performance than he did in Pursuit To Happyness, another excellent movie.

To release this on Boxing Day, right after Christmas was a bit humbug but at the same time, it showed people that not everyone is full of comfort and joy, Christmas or not. Don’t expect picturesque sunsets or Christmas miracles because you won’t get any. If anything, it’s the opposite. It’s a jeremiad about one man’s grief over his daughter. It’s not a blockbuster or fun-filled Christmas comedy. Expect a movie that takes sincere topics and turns them into something harrowing but thought-provoking.

Howard (Smith) meets Brigitte/Death (Helen Mirren)
(Collateral Beauty, Warner Bros.)

Yes, this is a sentimental Will Smith movie but he kills it. I never was a fan of Will Smith because he always used to play Will Smith. When he actually does some proper acting, this is the Will Smith I like. I don’t look at films like this to judge on cinematography, editing, music or any other aesthetic feature. Acting and narrative are what push this film along. The performances are excellent with a narrative that depicts the trials and tribulations of every day people, the Joe Bloggs of our society. Morality, ethics, philosophy, family, hope, friendships; all are represented in this film and I couldn’t ask for a finer end to 2016.

A provoker of philosophical discussions