Howard Inlet (Will Smith; Suicide Squad) had a great life - a successful business, beautiful family and great friends. His personal motto consisted of three words… Love, Time and Death – we long for love, we wish we had more time and we fear death. He was pretty content until his daughter's illness and subsequent passing left him a shell of himself.
Searching for answers, Howard decides to write letters to the three entities, expressing his grief and anger. His coworkers, worried about him and the state of the company, decide to hire three actors to portray love (Keira Knightly;), death (Helen Mirren;), and time (Jacob Latimore;) and confront Howard about his emotions. However, while coaching the actors, the coworkers, Whit (Ed Norton;), Claire (Kate Winslet;) and Simon (Michael Pena; The Martian), find help as they struggle with their own demons.
One must suspend belief in the practical to really enjoy this film. Frankel makes us take a leap of faith and thanks to Mirren, Latimore, and Knightly, we are all too happy to jump. The story makes you think and reassess your goals and values, while taking you on an emotional journey with Smith.
Smith is ok in the role, showing more emotion than I feel I have seen from him in the past. Watching him go from a "happy go lucky" guy to a shell of himself is a true transformation. However, I often find when I watch Smith that I am simply seeing Smith and not the character he is trying to portray (notable exception… Concussion) and Collateral Beauty is no exception.
Latimore, Winslet, Pena, Norton and Knightly all have substantial moments and work well together to make their scenes seamless. However, Mirren is the gem and is the true standout of this film. Her turn as death is humorous, poignant, inspiring and "magical". I don't believe I've ever seen her have a bad role and she is truly a master among a very talented cast in this film.
The script is a bit "clichéd" but I think you need a certain level of that with this type of movie. There are the obligatory relationships and struggles and a few moments you don't necessarily see coming. Audiences will enjoy the emotional, but difficult, aspects and will relate to at least one of the characters in the film.
Adding to that, the story is a fresh idea among the latest string of blow ‘em up, fight/chase scenes or magic wands that have permeated theaters as of late. Grab your significant other or some friends, a few tissues and a bucket of popcorn and settle in for heartbreaking, yet spirit renewing, film.