Movie Reviews

Movie Review: Collateral Beauty (2016)


There might be spoilers ahead. Just saying.
Trailer Summary: Retreating from life after a tragedy, a man questions the universe by writing to Love, Time and Death. Receiving unexpected answers, he begins to see how these things interlock and how even loss can reveal moments of meaning and beauty.
Real Summary: After the death of his daughter, a man questions their universe by writing to Love, Time, and Death. Meanwhile, his “friends” and coworkers, are worried about his lack of interest in their company and devise a plan to push him out. They hire actors to portray Death, Time and Love in order to make him look/feel crazy so they could record digitally alter the footage to prove he’s unfit. 
The Cast. There are no characters attached this time because I don’t think, outside of the actors playing them, that they were very interesting characters. I think all of the actors in this film are great actors and they did well in their roles but their characters were meh.
  • Will Smith is a good actor, I this he’s very charismatic overall and I think he understands humor and is a good dramatic actor but his character Howard, was just bland. He’s sad because his daughter died two years prior but he doesn’t do anything other than sulk, he builds domino contraptions in his place of work instead of actually working. He writes these letters to Time, Death and Love because he’s angry at them which is fine. Sure. But he’s just so… blah. There are a few times where he’s funny because I don’t think Will Smith can help it… he’s funny but the emotional moments, while he did a good job acting them, it just felt forced because of the circumstances. The ending though was a good emotional moment for him.
  • Edward Norton plays Whit, Smith’s best friend (I guess) and business partner. He comes up with the idea to hire actors to play the three entities that Howard wrote letter to. He also manages to have a closer relationship with Amy (Knightley) which happens to be ironic later on (but it wasn’t as clever as they tried to make it), he coaches her on how to be “love” to Howard. He is trying to mend his relationship with his daughter, who is upset with him for breaking her mother’s heart, so outside of his plan for Howard, he’s trying to reconnect their love.
  • Kate Winslet plays Claire, who I think was a mentee to Howard. She is the emotional one out of the group and spends her time coaching Raffi on how to be “time” as well as having other conversations with him later. She wants to have a baby because she’s worried her biological clock is ticking. She also is the one who feels bad for deceiving Howard. Kate Winslet is always good, she was good here and her character is likable enough but outside of the minor moments, we don’t really get to know her so you don’t feel bad for her.
  • Michael Pena plays Simon, who I’m not sure what he was to Smith before he became a “partner” or whatever he was. It’s so weird to not see him be funny as he usually always is. He takes the job of coaching Brigitte in being “death” and they end up having interesting conversations where she figures out something is up with him.
  • Naomie Harris plays Madeleine. I love Naomie Harris, she is such a great actress, you also wouldn’t know she’s British lol. But she plays the mediator of a group of parents who have lost their children. She ends up meeting Howard, they have a couple of conversations and she reveals how she was told, while at the hospital, about “Collateral Beauty” and she says this like 5 times in her story. Harris is good in her role in being an actual friend to Howard, someone he actually talks to and unloads his feelings to. It was a welcome change compared to other “friends”.
Death, Time, Love. I actually liked them, they were probably the only characters I actually liked. They are actually actors that Norton and co. hire to manipulate Howard.
  • Helen Mirren as Brigitte/Death. So I love her, she’s amazing and she’s good here too. She is the “leader” it seems of their acting group, and is very much into being the star. At one point, she even wants to portray all three entities. As Brigitte she is lively, a bit nosy and takes an interest in Michael Pena’s character. As Death, she’s the same but her interactions with Howard (there are only two) are her talking about his letter and how Death is important and that he shouldn’t be angry with her etc. but be understanding and accepting. I would have liked to see her play Death more to Howard, as she spends most of her time interacting with Michael Pena (which I get it) but that’s not what the movie was portrayed to be. It was supposed to be about her interacting with Howard and him learning that Death is important to life which is something he needed to understand. Helen Mirren is very lively in this role, she eats it up, it’s fun but she’s too good for this film.
  • Jacob Lattimore as Raffi/Time. I quite liked him and would have liked to have seen more of him. I think he shows promise as a good actor as he continues to grow up. He’s a young man, part of the three man acting trope and he is chosen to play Time to Howard, being that he is a young man. When I saw the trailer, I thought that was clever (and it still was). Raffi is a bit brash and outspoken. When Howard first meets him, “Time” is in his office, where no one else happens to be at that moment, and he is messing with his dominos. He was so harsh, that I loved it. I think Jacob Lattimore really enjoyed himself, his second scene with Howard was also a really good one.
  • Keira Knightley as Amy/Love. We meet her out of the three first, she is at the company trying out for an audition and she changes the slogan they have (it had something to do with love) and then Whit follows her to a theater where they find the others. Just like Kate Winslet, she is against doing this as it’s wrong, but while Kate Winslet is aboard, it’s harder for Amy to participate. She also seemed really emotional. The second time she’s with Howard was probably one of the better scenes in the movie. I also think Keira Knightley looked really beautiful in this film.
The idea. So, I think the idea is interesting. The idea of a man feeling so broken by depression and loss that he writes letters to abstract entities and then they come to him in human form… that’s cool. That’s what I wanted to see. It would have been cool to see him constantly interact with them, learn from them, learn that life is still beautiful even in the loss of loved ones. If it would have followed that path instead of the other stuff it tried to do, it would have been better.
The look of the film. I thought this film had a very nice look to it. It was beautiful to look at, the lighting, the crisp angles etc. I really thought the actors looked really good on screen, like there was some kind of glossy filter on the camera.
The parallels. I will admit, there is aspect of this movie that I thought was interesting which is why I wasn’t completely up in arms while watching it. While, Norton, Winslet and Pena hired actors to portray these abstracts to Howard, they are actually interacting with them one on one (Mirren/Pena), (Lattimore/Winslet), (Knightley/Norton) and are pretty much being to them what they wanted them to be to Howard, but for real. *Spoiler I guess*  which I thought was nice but that prevented from making the moments with Howard genuine.
Character motivations. So Norton, Winslet and Pena all work with Smith and they’re trying to get him to get back into work because he’s not doing his job, he’s shirking on his duties, ignoring existing accounts and is refusing to go after more, so they devise a plan that involves actors to get him to appear unhinged in order to get him out of his position. I get it, they didn’t want to lose their jobs, but that’s terrible. They could have just gone to board as professionals instead of concocting this entire stupid plot.
The Detective. First of all, she breaks into a mailbox to steal Howard’s letters. She explains how she got the key but that’s a felony… not to mention, how did you even find his letters in that mailbox? That is not a little house mailbox, but one of those big ones at the street corner. I mean what the heck. Not to mention, when she would follow him to capture the videos of him interacting with the actors, she was like a friggin ghost. She would pop out of nowhere. I understand, she’s a private investigator or whatever, but no. She didn’t need to be in the film at all.
The story. Due to my being upset at the trailers lying to me, I feel that the actual story of the movie is stupid. The whole thing of wanting to show the business board that Howard is unfit… sure even though that’s mean… but why go through all this trouble? Why not just show them your business is falling… I mean come on. Besides, if the actors portraying the entities were only faking it to Howard, what was the point of trying to make it seem like they’re actually these entities.
The emotional manipulation. I’m not saying this movie isn’t sad, it is, but I didn’t feel sad it was more like pity than anything. I’ll go more into this at the end of the review. What this movie tries to do is make a person want to reinvigorate their life, it’s supposed to be one of those movies that shows how a person wants to give up on life after a traumatic experience and they have to learn how to live again. That’s fine, but that is wrapped up in manipulation from the characters in the film, and it feels like it’s trying to beat it over your head. It’s like one of those Facebook posts you’d see where you need to “share it”. I’m going to be honest, it almost made me cry but not because I was sad and affected but because the characters on screen were crying. I’m a contagious crier. If someone else is crying, there’s a good chance I might start.
The “twist”. So there might be spoilers here, I mean, I’m going to try not to… but we’ll see what happens. Howard and his wife got a divorce after their daughter died, it’s been a couple of years and I guess they never really talked to each other. He doesn’t talk about her (he barely talks), but he keeps trying to go to this “Parents who have lost their children” meetings, he makes it closer and closer each time. Naomie Harris plays the mediator. Howard asks her her name, they have a few conversations, she tells him about how her husband reacted after their loss, and she shows him the card she was given.  This is one of those *eye roll* and *HOW!* moments. So that’s as far as I’ll go… if you don’t care and want to know more about this part, I’m going to spoil this part at the very end. You can choose to read further or not.
Boring/Too Slow. This movie takes a long time to get to the point. It’s not a “slow burn” kind of movie, it could have been and I think it was trying to be but it wasn’t and I think that’s where it’s problems lie. To be honest, I don’t think we needed to see the beginning, that probably could have been cut out, I mean I get it, they wanted us to see how Howard was before his daughter’s death, but I think the videos we saw him watch would have been indication enough. Cut out the beginning and get to the point. Not to mention, how long it takes to even get him to actually meeting the abstracts took a while and then the rest dragged on. I can see how it would be boring.
Overall, I think I would have liked Collateral Beauty more if it wasn’t so shallow. The characters are not really that likable, they have their qualities but overall, none of them at least together in this film are that interesting. I think the trailer was very misleading to what this film was about and that’s not a clever twist, it’s manipulative (just like the characters). It looks nice, I think the actors do well in their roles (albeit they’re wasted) and I like the idea of what could have been according to the trailer. I didn’t really care for it, I expected a completely different story. I get it, I get what it was trying to do but it failed to me.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.
Have you seen Collateral Beauty? Are you interested? What did you think about it? Let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to like and follow this blog for more!
Spoilers below, do not read further unless you want to be spoiled about Collateral Beauty… you have been warned. 
The “Twist”. So about the twist, Howard stands outside the church staring into the window of the meetings, I said in the beginning that Naomie Harris was going to be his wife but I almost retracted that statement because when they finally talk, he asks her name and they introduce themselves. So later, he goes to her house and it turns out she was his wife and Olivia was their daughter. Now, like I said, it wasn’t that hard to figure out but the reason why I call it a twist, is because they go through this whole runaround like Howard never met her, even when she tells her story about the card her husband left her “I wish we were strangers”, he never showed any indication that he recognized it. So, why wouldn’t he unless somehow he forgot… but I cannot imagine that happening unless he was so depressed that he chose to forget. Or that because he wants to be “strangers” that he really chose to forget but that’s stupid. It felt forced and out of left field and it made me upset. The scene where she forces him to say their daughter’s name was sad and I did almost cry but it wasn’t really out of sadness.
But that’s all I wanted to say about it. I’m done with this movie lol.
Don’t forget to leave comments!



  1. Now that is one thorough and thoughtful review. However, I believe that Collateral Beauty is the most misread and unfairly condemned film of last year. It is a lyrical essay on grief psychosis that uses magical realism to frame its premise. It has a complex narrative structure and some other issues, but it is a gut-wrenching story that if staged in 17th century costumes would have been seen as a universal fable of Shakespearean proportions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totaly get what you’re saying. I think it could have been all that you’re saying but it fails in doing so. Don’t get me wrong, the actors do well in their roles and I see the potential in the film, but I think there must have been some creative differences because I don’t think the film accomplishes what it was trying to accomplish. At least not to me. I’m glad you see it in such a positive way, lord knows it needs some love.

      Liked by 1 person

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