If you’re going to see “Collateral Beauty” bear in mind that, despite a cushy title and glossy poster, the film is about a father who loses his child. The subject matter is inherently bleak at best (absolutely shattering at worst) and “Collateral Beauty” is by no means one of those ’emotional but ultimately feel-good’ movies.
Will Smith plays Howard, a successful New York advertising exec who is stuck in a deep depression following the death of his daughter. His concerned friends and co-workers Whit, Claire and Simon (Edward Norton, Kate Winslet and Michael Pena, respectively) have been trying desperately to reconnect with Howard, but his detachment from life is now starting to impact the business they built together.
When they hire a private investigator to keep an eye on Howard, Whit, Claire and Simon learn he has been dealing with his grief by writing letters to Love, Time and Death. So, in a last bid attempt to save their company and their friend, they decide to hire three actors (Helen Mirren, Keira Knightly, Jacob Latimore) to visit Howard in person as those three abstractions; Love, Time and Death.
If the premise is starting to sound kind of ridiculous, well, it is. In fact that’s probably “Collateral Beauty’s” biggest downfall: for a film that sets itself firmly in our reality, the script just doesn’t do enough to explain why it all happens, let alone how. As the events play out, they’re not plausible enough for us to totally allow ourselves to accept what’s happening. You’ll catch yourself thinking ‘that just couldn’t happen’ or ‘that would never work’. There’s even a couple of moments in the film where it seems more likely that the action’s of his friends would push Howard over the edge, possibly even to suicide, rather than bring him back to a healthy mental state.
However, if you can move past the absurdity of it all, “Collateral Beauty” will ultimately hit you right in the feels. The movie is bolstered by a dependable cast who all deliver solid performances (Naomi Harris is also a part of the ensemble, as another parent who has lost a child) and the premise of the film is just so sad that, by the end, “Collateral Beauty” delivers an emotional gut-punch. And no, not in a feel-good kind of way (despite obvious attempts to wrap everything up in a neat little bow).