Collateral Beauty

“What is your Why” a cheery Will Smith poses this question to his colleagues with a winning grin in place, in the opening sequence of the movie Collateral Beauty. Directed by David Frankel, it is an American Drama released in 2016.

Collateral Beauty Howard Inlet (Will Smith) is a successful businessman, a creative genius running an Advertising Company and in throes of success, ably supported by Whit (Edward Norton), Claire (Kate Winslet) and Simon(Michael Pena). In his opening speech, Howard firmly states that Love, Time and Death, are responsible for every action and reaction. These three factors dictate each person’s “Why” and without them, nothing can exist.

However, just one scene later, he is reduced to a sad, depressed, middle aged man, who is more interested in building castles with Dominoes and breaking them into pieces, rather than getting his business on track. His friend and partner Whit is worried that Howard would bring the company’s downfall due to his depressive state. He discusses his problems with their other two friends and majority stake holders, Amy and Simon. It turns out that two years ago, Howard lost his only child, a girl of six years to cancer, and he has been on a downward swing since then.

He continually remains in a pensive mood, refusing to eat or cooperate and keeps himself locked in his room for long periods of time. Whit, Amy and Simon want to help him out and thus hire a private investigator to keep a tab on Howard. They find out his secret, he has been writing letters to Love, Time and Death and isn’t in right mental state to continue with business.

Whit hitches a plan and hires three struggling actors, Helen Mirren, Kiera Knightly and Jacob Latimore to play the roles of Death, Love and Time respectively. The plan is to videotape Howard’s reaction to these impersonators and expose his insanity.

However, as it turns out, the problem is deeper than what appeared on surface. Whit is having issues with his family, he feels terrible loss of love in his life. Amy is running out of her baby bearing years and is desperately looking for sperm donors. While Simon is about to die, and has kept his wife in dark about his health. And, each one of them, in a perfect irony, try to bail out Howard by engaging with Love, Time and Death! Indeed, they need them more than Howard.

The movie is thought provoking to say the least. While watching movie, I did miss out on subtleties as the issues discussed and remedies engaged, were too deep to grasp in a jiffy. It slowly occurred to me that each of us acts as a mirror, was played out to perfection in Collateral Beauty.

Howard is considered the weakest link here, who isn’t able to cope up with his kid’s death and is out to destroy everything he owns. But by and by I realized that actually his other three friends are in no better position. They are in a desperate need of bailout, even more than Howard as they are not even aware of their own struggles. By appearing to help Howard, they actually helped themselves, by coming to terms with their hidden issues. Miraculously this fact appeared logical in a series of illogical actions.

Moreover the climax was a total surprise, spinning the story on it’s head. Though as is usual with thought provoking stories, the end is open and uncertain, giving viewers a chance and freedom to interpret it in their own way. Though I would have preferred the story to be slightly more elaborate. Here, the director seemed to be in a rush to finish the movie in a fixed time. While this kind of plot demands more time and space to work out its maximum effect.

Also, a slight nick that kept bumping me, was the drab way, beautiful attractive women were portrayed in this movie. Neither Kiera nor Kate looked appealing. Their makeup, hair and dresses were unimpressive. Naomi Harris did manage to look svelte and graceful but I was totally disappointed with others.

At the end of the day, Collateral Beauty touches upon a sensitive subject. The human mind is too complex to be understood and myriad reactions, a trauma can bring about, are not at all easy to fathom. I liked the way, abstractions of Love, Time and Death were juxtaposed with living creatures and a semblance of understanding was achieved between the Heart and Mind.

But, the movie did leave me unsatiated. Much More could have been done, in this philosophical, spiritual, emotional plot. A good watch but certainly not great.

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