Depression in the times of pop-culture (Collateral Beauty movie review)

Howard Inlet (Will Smith) is very successful man who works for a big advertising company. When his daughter dies, the man breaks down. Depressed protagonist joins the support group for those who need to mourn. He believes that there are three things that connect all people on Earth – the desire for love, need for time and, last but not least, fear of death. What will be hard for his friends: Claire (Kate Winslet), Whita (Edward Norton) and Simon (Michael Peña) to understand, the protagonist begins writing letters to love, time and death. Soon, on his way, he meets their personifications – Aimee “Love” (Keira Knightley), Raffi “Time” (Jacob Latimore) and Brigitte “Death” (Helen Mirren). “Collateral Beauty”, directed by David Frankel, can be described as a modern morality, but – unfortunately –  the change that the characters go through is neither subversive nor deep; on the contrary – it’s seems to be superficial and located in a selfish fear of loneliness and not necessarily in desire of becoming a better and more empathic human being.

After losing the will to live, Inlet begins to write letters to Death, Love and Time, which is pretty ironic because he used to use those concepts in his marketing speeches based on couching philosophy and cliché, but at the same time catchy, graphomanic phrases. What he once has compromises, now he uses for authentic compensation. Because his depression and new  self-saving routine quickly begin to affect the company’s turnover, the protagonist’s worried partners and friends, who obviously care not only about Inlet’s state of mind and heart, but also about their wallets, decides to help him. They hire three actors who are supposed to play – as a form of an experimental psychotherapy – abstract correspondents of Howard’s letters. Unfortunately, what begins as an interesting variation on both – philosophy of working through trauma and postmodern tale with moral turns out to be an introduction to rather annoying and pretentious series of melodramatic gestures composed of visual and narrative clichés.

A galaxy of acting stars in the story of dealing with loss is not enough to turn “Collateral Beauty” in a movie that would be at least bearable. The entire narration resembles an adaptation of a cheesy handbook of happy life after grief that was standing on a shelf next to Paolo Coelho masterpieces of a doubtful worth.

“Collateral Beauty” was supposed to be an, at the same touching and heart-worming, Christmas tale about looking for a meaning in life that has already lost its point and about putting yourself together when you are not sure you are survive. Stories like those need not only distances, but also a kind of subtlety that will protect the creators from falling into a trap of exaggerated, theatrical gestures and crocodile tears. Unfortunately, the director and the scriptwriters are missing all of those values and that’s why their movie is as banal as the slogan that was promoting the movie “we are all connected”.