Movie Review: Collateral Beauty

Published on: December 21, 2016

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I had the pleasure of seeing a preview of the movie Collateral Beauty with some coworkers a few weeks before it was released (Dec 16, 2016). The movie is rich with metaphor and makes good use of a phenomenal ensemble cast.

Will Smith plays Howard Inlet, a New York advertising executive who retreats from life after the death of his young daughter a few years earlier. His withdrawal is affecting the business he created with his friends (Kate Winslet, Edward Norton, Michael Peña) and threatens to take them all down financially.

They are desperate to break through his barriers, not just for financial reasons, but also because of the depth of their relationships with him. They scheme to bring him back into participation in life.

Howard sits in with a grief support group led by a woman named Madeleine (Naomie Harris), still unable to even speak about his daughter in the meeting. As a way of coping, he writes letters to Love, Time and Death, seeking answers. Unexpectedly he receives “personal encounters” with each of them (Keira Knightley, Jacob Latimore, Helen Mirren). As Death tells him, “Nothing’s ever really dead if you look at it right.”

The title comes from advice he is given while trying to process his grief. He is told not to” miss the collateral beauty” in the situation—something he cannot see nor fathom at that moment. We feel Howard’s pain and participate in his questioning. All the deep issues come up to be held in the Light. We walk with Howard, yet ultimately we need to come to our own resolutions, our own answers.

The film left many of us in tears, with hope mixed with the sadness. We all found ourselves pondering the meaning of various aspects of the characters and plot. It’s a good movie when it leaves you still thinking hours later.

This is a great film to see as a ministry group and to discuss afterward.
Collateral Beauty Discussion Guide

Featurette with Commentary by Rev Michael Beckwith

Bernadette Swanson

Bernadette Swanson is Communications Manager at Unity Worldwide Ministries. She works on The Path e-newsletter, Unity Leaders Journal online journal and She is a licensed Unity teacher at Unity of Independence, Mo.

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  • Bernadette Swanson

    The discussion guide is a great resource for group discussion after the movie.