Collateral Beauty

This being the third film in a row I’ve reviewed on Blu-ray in which a man’s life is destroyed by the death of a child and the loss of a wife (alongside Manchester by the Sea and Nocturnal Animals) leads me to suspect that a strong sense of loss is vibrating through our national zeitgeist despite the blessings of unsocial media. Collateral Beauty, a feel-good downer (a romtrage, if you will), is a parable filled with It’s a Wonderful Life–like whimsy concerning a grieving advertising executive, Howard (Will Smith), who, two years on from the loss of his daughter, is writing letters to Time, Death, and Love to voice his complaints and express his trauma. The shareholding partners at his agency, concerned that this once brilliant and charismatic pitchman is bringing his own house down through ignoring major clients, hire actors to play the three recipients of his letters in the hope of either snapping him out of his state of mind or giving verifiable video proof that he’s mentally incompetent, allowing them to remove him and sell the company. Compared to Manchester by the Sea and Nocturnal Animals, Collateral Beauty can seem shallow and at times heavy handed (Howard likes to set off systematical brick-by-brick collapses of the domino structures he constructs), but, with the aid of its fine, emotionally (and financially) invested cast of actors, it’s still effective in dredging the odd tear from even the most jaded eye. the cinematography is not that communicative or striking, the film uses its shallow focus to lend an intimate feeling, the warm molding lighting creating a solid dimensionality in figures and faces. Blacks are deep throughout, whites brilliant, and a mix of bright office pastels abound with a wide range of subtle tones so that highly saturated colors of clothing really pop with a rarely seen intensity. Detail is good, presenting tactile tree bark, weaves to woolens, and distinct brickwork, while pores, wrinkles, and graying strands in hair and beards of an ensemble of actors leaving their youths behind are clearly visible.

The rather bland, New Agey emotive musical score is well presented, surging at you from all channels, instruments well separated into each, leaping far off the screen and into the room to enwrap you in its fuzziness. The surrounds are also used in creating subtle yet effective authentic-sounding city atmospherics and convincing vehicular pans, all adding to the extremely immersive quality of this soundtrack.


The only extra available is a dull, uninformative 15-minute making-of featurette with spouting stars singing praises being intercut with clips from the film.

Mourning does not become electric.

Studio: Warner, 2016
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Length: 97 mins.
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: David Frankel
Starring: Will Smith, Keira Knightley, Kate Winslet