FILM: COLLATERAL BEAUTY
CAST: WILL SMITH, EDWARD NORTON, KATE WINSLET, MICHAEL PEÑA, HELEN MIRREN
DIRECTOR: DAVID FRANKEL
When a successful New York advertising executive suffers a great tragedy he retreats from life. While his concerned friends try desperately to reconnect with him, he seeks answers from the universe by writing letters to Love, Time and Death. But it’s not until his notes bring unexpected personal responses that he begins to understand how these constants interlock in a life fully lived, and how even the deepest loss can reveal moments of meaning and beauty.
From Oscar-winning director David Frankel, this thought-provoking drama features an all-star cast, including Will Smith (‘Suicide Squad’, ‘Concussion’), Edward Norton (‘Birdman’), Keira Knightley (‘The Imitation Game’), Michael Peña (‘The Martian’), Naomie Harris (‘Spectre’), Jacob Latimore (‘The Maze Runner’), with Oscar winners Kate Winslet (‘The Reader’, ‘Steve Jobs’) and Helen Mirren (‘The Queen’, ‘Trumbo’).
“‘Collateral Beauty’ is about finding your way back to life and love in the wake of unspeakable loss, and about those unexpected moments of hope, meaning and connection – the proverbial silver linings – that light the path through even the darkest times,” according to the film’s production notes.
“It’s those things we sometimes take for granted or don’t notice all the time, but that might be there every day, like a sunset…or fleeting, like a child’s smile,” says director David Frankel. “There are millions of examples of collateral beauty; they’re unique, and we all have different ideas about what they could be. They’re the reason that we go on, and I think what’s really compelling about this story is that it reminds us to take notice of those brilliant fragments of life that make it worth living.”
Discovering those moments illuminated by every tragic event is an emotional and spiritual journey profoundly personal to each individual, yet something that we all share. Set amidst the warmth, energy and often bittersweet notes of the holiday season in New York City, ‘Collateral Beauty’ tells the life-affirming story of one man’s progress through the landscape of loss and what he ultimately finds – with heart, candour, a thread of humour and the recognition that there will always be some things beyond our understanding.
“The way you see the world, the way your heart opens and the way you relate to people after a tragedy can be very beautiful,” observes screenwriter Allan Loeb, who is also one of the film’s producers. “It can be transformative.”
Will Smith, who stars as the central character, Howard, a man lost in grief, concurs. “The over-arching idea of collateral beauty touched all of us, that no matter how difficult your circumstances, there is something special happening right there; you just have to look for it to see it.” Citing the holiday classic ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ among his favourites, and one of his inspirations for ‘Collateral Beauty’, he adds, “So many of the actors David approached first said yes. It was one of those times where we all got it; we all wanted to be a part of delivering this story to the screen.”
For Loeb, it began as the germ of a concept that grew to capture his imagination until it could not be denied. “It came together piece by piece over a long period of time as I wrote other movies and worked on other things,” he recounts. “It was a little story in my head that kept nagging at me, about a man who writes letters to abstractions like time, love and death, and why would he do that?”
Howard was a highly successful and dynamic advertising executive, the head of his own company, for whom those words once represented powerful marketing tools. They were great motivators. In an early scene evoking his former passion, he is seen addressing a rapt crowd with the statement: “These three things connect every single human being on Earth. We long for love. We wish we had more time. And we fear death.”
But after his six-year-old daughter succumbs to a fatal illness, casting Howard emotionally adrift, these concepts take on a larger meaning. Increasingly withdrawn from human contact, the only communication Howard now initiates are the angry, accusatory letters he writes to Love, Time, and Death.
“He’s struggling with big, philosophic questions and looking to the universe for answers,” Frankel says. “Like a modern-day King Lear, you might say, he’s howling at the gods.”
Eventually, Howard’s fixation gives his friends an idea to possibly break him out of his endless malaise by somehow allowing him to confront these very concepts.