Film Rating: 12A ****
Director: David Frankel
Writer: Allan Loeb
UK Release: Boxing Day 2016
Review date: 27th December 2016
Death will visit all of us at some point in time. At what is meant to be an uplifting, joyous time of Christmas festivity, many of us have also been mourning the death of a number of much loved and revered people. Curiously these are people we didn’t personally know. I speak of course of recently deceased world renowned celebrities George Michael and Carrie Fisher, plus the many other celebrities who have passed away this Christmas and consistently throughout 2016.
Collateral Beauty is a timely reminder of the fragility of life as we reflect upon our own lives and those of the many dearly departed stars in 2016.
Though their deaths have been untimely and mostly unexpected, they happen to tie in with the theme of Will Smith’s latest film, ‘Collateral Beauty’, made by New Line Cinema. It mainly focuses on one man’s grief, Howard, a New York advertising boss played by Will Smith, represented by a period of mourning that leads him to retreat from life. Written by Allan Loeb and directed by David Frankel, the film revolves around three central themes of love, time and death and how they become interwoven threads that impact on the grieving process and Howard’s marriage and business relationships.
This relatively simple premise has resulted in a beautiful, touching movie based in New York. This is in no small measure down to some fine performances from a galaxy of familiar faces including Dame Helen Mirren, Keira Knightly, Kate Winslet, Naomie Harris and Edward Norton. Dame Helen Mirren demonstrated compassion and wisdom in her scenes with Will Smith, whilst Naomie Harris was exemplary as a cool, calm, professional Therapist. The awe inspiring and famous New York skyline with its bustling streets and traffic provided a suitable backdrop to the drama. The fast paced, big city lifestyle contrasted with and illuminated the ponderous stagnation of Will Smith’s character.
As we observe Howard’s withdrawal from life, witness his refusal to make any decisions at work, such as buying and selling shares or doing deals, which, when you’re company CEO is a little bit of a problem! His colleagues and friends are forced to try and help him make decisions for his own benefit and their’s too. Tense meetings between them result in an unusual and somewhat unorthodox approach being adopted. I quite liked their novel approach and was hooked wondering whether or not it will work.
Concurrently Howard is also trying to help himself and decides to seek answers from the wider universe by writing letters to ‘Love, Time and Death’. Will Smith is highly convincing in his role. His mannerisms, single mindedness and hard-hearted approach clearly portray a man in no mood to have his mind changed on anything. For that to happen it is going to take some considerable effort.
Watching how this unfolds is a joy, thought provoking and at times very amusing. The devices by which the themes are brought to life require a little suspension of disbelief, but to zone in on that would be missing the point.
At an hour 40 minutes it was overly long. A good twenty minutes or so could have been cut without losing any of the film’s impact and meaning.
Ignore the many negative reviews out so far. I think they’ve missed the point, particularly if you consider its release date. Its release at Christmas is deliberate in my opinion as there are echos of Charles Dickens’ famous ‘A Christmas Carol’ novella in which Scrooge is confronted by the ghosts of the past, the present and the future.
Collateral Beauty is a good, grown up, serious movie on grief that is emotionally moving without being schmaltzy or over dramatised. It works not just because of its great cast, acting and New York setting, but because it subtly highlights the domino effect tragedy can have upon one’s life and how that grief that can result in stagnation that hurts not just the person grieving, but negatively affects others around them too.
© Tiemo Talk of the Town
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- A Christmas Carol review: Scrooge – The Comics Edition – 27th December 2013