Collateral Beauty (M)

In a Word: Quirky

Collateral Beauty

CLOSE ENCOUNTER: Helen Mirren plays actor Brigitte (aka 'Death') and Will Smith stars as advertising executive Howard in Collateral Beauty.

"An off-beat, philosophical film with some confusing morality (while it’s obviously not OK at any level to deceive someone to prove they’re nuts, the film simply skates over this), Collateral Beauty features an impressive cast (including, as well as the above, Noemie Harris as group therapy counselor Madeleine who tries to get Howard to join her group) but despite some solid performances doesn’t get beyond being a mildly diverting tale."

What is your why? That’s the question posed by New York-based advertising industry star Howard (played by Will Smith) at the start of Collateral Beauty.

Fast forward to a few years later and Howard is now a broken man, his six-year-old daughter having died from a rare cancer, his marriage broken and his relationship with his business partners – Whit (Edward Norton), Claire (Kate Winslet) and Simon (Michael Pena) - almost non-existent.

It’s been two years since his daughter’s death but Howard remains zombie-like - uncommunicative and isolated, obsessed with building dominoes (something he did with his daughter) and engaged in self-destructive behaviour - as he grapples with what’s happened.

Things have reached a head at work and his business partners, under increasing financial pressure as client after client leaves them thanks to a lack of connection with Howard, hatch a plan to show that Howard is incapable of operating as the majority partner of the firm.

Hiring a private detective, they discover Howard has written three letters – to death, time and love – and using these, they hire three decidedly odd actors – Brigitte (played by Helen Mirren), Raffi (Jacob Latimore) and Amy (Keira Knightley) - to personify the concepts.

The idea is that they will meet Howard and his response will be captured on film which and, after being manipulated to wipe out the actors making it look as if he’s speaking to himself, will show he’s out of his mind.

And so it goes – but, of course, things don’t quite end up going as plan and the story takes some interesting detours before coming to what’s, in the end, a fairly predictable conclusion.

An off-beat, philosophical film with some confusing morality (while it’s obviously not OK at any level to deceive someone to prove they’re nuts, the film simply skates over this), Collateral Beauty features an impressive cast (including, as well as the above, Noemie Harris as group therapy counselor Madeleine who tries to get Howard to join her group) but despite some solid performances doesn’t get beyond being a mildly diverting tale.

Collateral Beauty raises some interesting possibilities but then fails to fully explore them, ultimately leaving the viewer a little unsatisfied.