I am referring to this post as Collateral Beauty: A Reaction because I am not a film critic. Although there are elements of this film that I could easily critique, I will leave that to the professionals. For those of you afraid of spoilers, stop here! I will probably be writing with spoilers.
I am not going to lie, I wanted to see this film in hopes of somehow satisfying my depression or grief. I needed to know if the film offered any sage advice about life or how to overcome the crippling sadness of loss, but unfortunately, I spent two hours balling my eyes out, which (as you may imagine), failed to rescue me from my sorrow.
The plot of Collateral Beauty is far less heartwarming than the trailer would have you believe and most of the characters are incredibly unlikeable. Despite the awful dialogue, I was so focused on Will Smith’s character, Howard, and the way he perfectly embodied grief, that even that was somehow tolerable.
Following the death of his 6 year-old daughter, Howard becomes despondent. Desperate to find meaning in a life where there is none, Howard writes letters to Time, Death, & Love. When he receives responses from the abstract forcess in person, he is begins to confront his emotions and to actively engage in life, again. Howard reacts most strongly to Love (played by Kiera Knightly), who elicits a beautiful response from him about trying to use literature to find meaning in death, but realizing that it is all “intellectual bull shit.”
And that, in a nutshell, is the entire movie. I left this film feeling more beaten down and hopeless than when I initially sat down. Many of Howard’s (alleged) friends do not understand the enormity of his loss or its pervasiveness and ultimately take advantage of Howard at his most vulnerable. Perhaps the film was hoping to demonstrate that death does not matter or that we should be more capable of moving on after experiencing loss, but whatever its intended moral significance is, it gets lost in the film’s frenzied attempt to become the film its audience is actually expecting. (Does that make sense?)
The actors hired within the film speak of gas lighting, which is exactly what this film does. It is marketed as a feel-good holiday film, with similarities to It’s a Wonderful Life. This film is an insult to those of us who are actually suffering. So, not only does this film deserve a D rating, but it also deserves a big FUCK YOU.
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