The European premiere of Collateral Beauty moved many of the guests of The Vue Cinema at Leicester Square (London) to tears last Thursday night. The movie, by Oscar-honoured director David Frankel (Marley and Me, The Devil Wears Prada) brings the audience along for a very profound and sentimental journey.
Howard, an advertising CEO from New York City, majestically portrayed by Will Smith in one of his more mature and sophisticated roles, has started to write letters to the universe, to the entities of Death, Time and Love specifically after the loss of his daughter. His letters are not requests, as his life force has died along with the purpose of his life, his daughter and instead they are cries of a man for whom the meaning of life has been lost. His words are brutal, marked with the acrid fumes of that anger caused by an insurmountable feeling of impotence. Suddenly, he is forced to confront the abstractions he has been writing to, in human form when Death (Helen Mirren), Time (Jacob Latimore), and Love (Keira Knightley) seek out Howard with the answers to his letters.
The eyes of his colleagues, Whit (Edward Norton), Claire (Kate Winslet) and Simon (Michael Peña) also are staring him down. While they are worried out of their minds for their grieving friend, they cannot tolerate any further disinterest towards his company, as it would cost them a lifetime worth of work. They desperately want to help their friend, but career and money get in the way, and what they end up doing is plotting to cut him off from the company, confronting him about some schizophrenic conversations he seems to be having with some invisible entities. Fate, however, operates with surgical retaliation, and Howard’s friends will be destined to also face representations of (and the repercussions of) Love, Time and Death in their own life. Howard is a lost man standing outside the window of the group therapy sessions for grieving parents. He won’t enter because not only he exclusively shares the story of the loss of his daughter in his letters to abstract beings, but also because he cannot even pronounce his daughter’s name anymore. It is in this moment of extreme vulnerability that Madeleine (Naomie Harris) confronts him with a consolation sometimes only a stranger can offer.
In the end, salvation will not come from some three Christmas-ghost like manifestations, but in the very concrete form of the embrace of a stranger, or rather of someone that in these last two years of grief had become one. Collateral beauty is to be found when everything seems lost, as when you are stripped of your own, your heart will someday wander towards that ultimate, profound connection that links all humans, a salve that the universe is willing to offer to the wounded, when they become so brave to see past their own pain. So, “Be sure to notice the collateral beauty”.
The film will premiere in all Czech theatres on December 22nd.
QUOTES: “What is your why?” “Life is about people.” “I thought you couldn’t afford therapy anymore.” (Claire) “ I can’t. It was my Uber driver.” (Whit) “I’m gifting you, and you are wasting it!” (Time to Howard) “I am the fabric of life.” (Love) “It will be like being in a movie. Except you’ll be digitally removed.” (Whit) “I told her to take me and leave my daughter. But she didn’t wanna make the trade.” (Howard on Death) “You have lived right. But, my friend, you are not dying right.” (Brigitte to Simon) “It will never make it ok. But I promise you it’s there.” (Madeleine explaining the collateral beauty to Howard) “Children do not have to come from you. They come through you.” (Raffi to Claire)
Cover photo: Giorgia Fiori