A Lesson In Collateral Beauty

“Just be sure to notice the collateral beauty. It’s the profound connection to everything.” -Madeleine

Monday night, Orange County Film Society members made their way to Regency South Coast Plaza Theater for an advanced screening of Collateral Beauty. Let me begin by saying that Collateral Beauty was everything I imagined, and everything I didn’t. The story is more than just a man embracing basic constants of life. It encourages everyone else to do so too.

Directed by David Frankel and written by Allan Loeb, Collateral Beauty follows Will Smith as Howard, the surviving father of a six-year-old girl who lost her battle to cancer. For just a snippet we see a charming, energetic and successful Howard, but after the untimely death of his only child, he removes himself mentally from everyday life and obligations and engages in a depressing pattern as his only way to cope with life. After some time mourning the loss of his daughter, Howard decides to write three letters to abstract objects that make the circle of life: Love, Time, and Death.

Meanwhile, friends and business partners Claire (Kate Winslet), Simon (Michael Peña) and Whip (Edward Norton), the only people who seem to care about and are concerned for Howard’s mental well-being, are trying to keep the business afloat. After spending countless hours and days building elaborate domino effect designs at the office and being unreachable to them at all times, the trio feel Howard can no longer help them on the business front and believe it is time for desperate measures.

Howard’s experience was a tragic, life-changing one, of course, but I was surprised that no one was able to reach him for so long. Not all breakdowns are the same, but it is clear which ones still have light left in them. In his mourning, Howard continued some form of connection to the real world. He still went to the office, even if all he did was his domino designs. He visited the dog park. Although he never spoke to anyone, although he had no means of communication, like a telephone or computer, he actively put himself in places where life was happening. He could have easily decided to spend day in and out at his home, with zero human interaction at all, but he didn’t. He still had fight left in him, a will to live and not just survive. “Even the deepest loss can reveal moments of meaning and beauty,” (IMDb). That’s a tough lesson to learn as our most basic human instinct to a loss is sadness.

Despite the film’s dark tone, there are times of light comedy, and uplifting and enlightening changes. The supporting cast, which includes Keira Knightly, Jacob Latimore, Naomie Harris, and Helen Mirren, and their respective storylines were a joy to watch as they embraced their own collateral beauty. I thoroughly enjoyed Helen Mirren’s performance as her character brought humor, wisdom and a liveliness to the screen.

Collateral Beauty will be released on December 16, 2016. For more information, you can visit www.collateralbeauty-movie.com

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