Film: Collateral Beauty
Cast: Will Smith, Edward Norton, Keira Knightley, Michael Pena, Naomie Harris, Jacob Latimore, Kate Winslet, Helen Mirren
Director: David Frankel
Connect. Only connect. The epigraph in E M Forster’s visionary Howard’s End is echoed by Will Smith’s character in Collateral Beauty: “We’re here to connect; love, time, death. These three things connect every single human being on Earth. We long for love, we wish we had more time and we fear death.”
True. Love, as Ecclesiastes proclaimed, is stronger than death. And everybody, including the loveless and yes, even the suicidal, wants to live. Suicide attempts as any shrink will tell you, is a cry for help. Really, no one wants to die except the pervs who embrace and inflict death for the “reward” of a 99 strong harem in the afterlife.
Will Smith’s protagonist is no jihadi but a New York ad man named Howard Inlet who plunges into morbid depression after the death of a child and writes missives to… Love, Time and Death. Remember that Connie Francis song Its gonna be a blue Christmas without you…? Nobody laugh.
Kids write letters to Santa in the North Pole don’t they? Soon enough, by way of reply, Howard has close encounters of the strange kind with the mysterious personifications of Love /Aimee Moore (Keira Knightley),Rafi/ time (Jacob Latimore) and Death, no Grim Reaper this, I kid you not, but a senior citizen named Brigitte (Helen Mirren).Wow.
The A list ensemble cast also boasts of Kate Winslet, Edward Norton, Michael Pena and Naomie Harris and they’re the best reason to watch this weepie which would have been far from Christmas fare if it wasn’t for the inspirational message. Directed by David Frankel (“Hope Springs” , “Marley and Me” and “The Devil Wears Prada) Collateral Beauty is written by Allan Loeb, who has obviously been inspired by Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in which the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future and the Ghost of business man Jacob Marley steer the miser Scrooge, he of the shrivelled soul, to fullness of heart and a most pleasant state of being.
Unlike Scrooge, Collateral Beauty’s Howard is not alone. His buddies care about him and attempt to “connect” with and for him. Forster leaves the reader in that final failure of the race to “Only connect,” Frankel and Loeb’s cosmic beings, in tandem with Howard’s buddies, help the man cope with his grief and misery and come to terms with loss and life and living. (ps For the Perfect Christmas film watch “It’s A Wonderful Life.” )