Top critical review
Beautiful Story With Unseen Potential
Reviewed in the United States on August 22, 2020
To clarify, my rating is more of a 3.5 than it is a 3
Collateral Beauty is a 2016 American fantasy drama film directed by David Frankel and written by Allan Loeb. The film stars an ensemble cast of Will Smith, Edward Norton, Keira Knightley, Michael Peña, Naomie Harris, Jacob Latimore, Kate Winslet, and Helen Mirren.
Will Smith stars as Howard, an individual who is grieving the death of his child; part of this process entails sending three letters to the abstract concepts of Love, Time, and Death.
I will start by saying that the plot of this movie had a certain amount of depth and originality that sets it apart from others. It's hard to believe that this movie isn't based off of a book, because the gravity of the story is hard to avoid. Grief is a difficult topic to tackle when formulating representations of this process, so I applaud 'Collateral Beauty' for its creativity and relatability. Those attributes alone make this worth watching at least once.
Unfortunately, the choppy nature regarding the main characters' relationship with one another is equally hard to ignore. More importantly, the nature in which Howard's co-workers claim to care for him as a "friend" feels considerably one-noted. Despite all of the fluff included meant to inspire feelings related to love, the motivation the characters have for keeping their jobs (and, trust me, I understand what some people will do to maintain their livelihoods) takes more of a center stage than I would guess the director means for it to. In the end, I can understand why the characters resort to the measures they do to help Howard process his grief - but this film would have benefited from making their interactions with Howard less guarded as the film progressed.
I avoid spoilers when I make these reviews, but the only other thing I will say is that the conclusions (for all of these separate characters) in some ways feel forced. I got the impression over time that the stories and challenges these characters were all going through would somehow intertwine and feel truly related to one another, but it never happened. More than that, though, the "grand reveal" about Howard's relationship with Madeline seems ultimately vapid by the time the movie is over.
I enjoyed this film for what it was, because it was a beautiful film about the influence that time, love, and death has on all of us; I would recommend, even if not strongly.