After a man loses his daughter, he finds himself beginning to slip into the hand of grief and loss. His co-workers begin to worry about his well-being, but also about the company going downhill due to his incapability. He tries putting his pain into letters written to Death, Time, and Love. His co-workers use this an opportunity to try shake some sense into him by hiring actors to represent each of the things he wrote to. But they realize that it’s not only helping him, but helping themselves in the process.
The plot I just described might seem spoiler-y, but trust me, it’s not. This is established early on in the film as far as the set up. The trailer makes it look like these people magically appear to Will Smith’s character, ignoring the fact that they are actors. I can see why they’d rather sell that, but some may not want to be lied to going into it. Even though this slightly changes the plot of the film, it still very much captures the heart of the trailer and presents what it is really about. This film is getting trashed by critics and audiences, and I’m honestly shocked, but at the same time I’m not. Apparently films of this caliber are just meant to be hated. The movie is very cheesy, fluffy, sappy, and often times predictable, but it is the feel good movie that people will walk out of feeling uplifted, hopeful, and charmed. The story is often times very sad, and you really feel for Will Smith’s character as you watch him go through this slump, though I do think they could have captured this a little better. We get more insight to his co-workers more often than Smith’s character. His co-workers do come off as heartless considering they’re only doing this mostly to save their asses by making Will’s character seem crazy during his grief processes. But gradually we see them becoming more sensitive to him as they become more aware of their own problems, and the three people they hire become just as affective of their lives as well as Smith. There are a lot of genuinely heartfelt moments involved and some that tug at your heartstrings. You can say this movie is sappy, cheesy, etc., all you want, but you must be a pretty insensitive person if you can’t throw your inhibitions away and get lost with what the film is trying to offer. It’s not a perfect movie, nor is it particularly original, but it does what it was meant to do, and that’s make you actually feel particular emotions that film’s like this just need to be made for. To provide a certain type of hope, happiness, and making the heart full.
What makes the film it’s most powerful is due to the marvelous performances by the cast. Will Smith turns in a very strong emotional performance as the lead character Howard. He perfectly captures the depression and grief he’s feeling due to his loss. It’s not as gritty as Casey Affleck’s in Manchester by the Sea, but it’s a portrayal that feels the most common among those who have felt a great loss. Kate Winslet, Edward Norton, and Michael Pena also turn in fine performances, while they don’t have quite the heavy emotional material Will does, they really capture their supporting roles in ways that help you see things in perspectives despite their motives. While Smith provides the strongest performance in the film, I genuinely feel that Helen Mirren, Jacob Latimore, and Keira Knightley provide my favorite performance and characters. They play the three figures Smith’s character writes to and the actors his co-workers hire. Mirren, Latimore, and Knightley embody Death, Time, and Love so beautifully and perfectly and provide much of the heartfelt moments that you go into this movie and walk out hoping to receive. The actors they play even perfectly embody the figures. Mirren is presented as quick-witted, knowledgable, and truth-speaking aspects shown in Death. Jacob Latimore shows the bitterness and hostility that Time boasts, and finally with Keira Knightley, it’s her beauty, sensitivity, and strong sense of caring that makes her perfectly the embodiment of Love. Naomie Harris also turns in a pretty powerful performance as a woman who also lost a child and is the grief counselor for the group Smith’s character attends, and they both share some great on-screen chemistry together.
If you’re someone who enjoys films of this caliber that provide charm, heart filling, and hopeful films; cheesiness and sappiness and all, then this is the perfect film for you. People can hate on these movies all they want, but whether they want to believe it or not, they very needed and are made for a purpose, and Collateral Beauty perfectly fulfills this purpose with it’s beautiful story and powerful performances by the cast.