"Jacob is the man who discovers that he is not alone, who encounters angels."

Kind of Blue: Will Smith and Helen Mirren in Collateral Beauty.

 Photograph: Barry Wetcher/AP

In my previous life I worked for a national movie magazine.Every once in a while I find a movie I want to share. 

Collateral Beauty, starring Will Smith, Helen Mirren, Kate Winslet, Keira Knightly and Edward Norton, is a remarkable movie.No gunshots, no aliens no car chases. Just a beautiful heartfelt script, incredible acting, and a theme so rare today: a reminder, for those of us privileged to live in first world countries, about what is truly holy and sacred.


Sadly, the trailers are uninspiring but I am glad I went.It is unexpectedly inspiring in every meaning of the word. Not the usual, insipid, soppy Hollywood fake interpretation of life or death.


The events happen around Christmas. It could have taken place in the middle of July.The themes are universal-not limited in any way to a time, a particular religion or any religion for that matter. It starts with a simple but highly emotional story-the death of a child. Will Smith plays an ad executive so consumed with sadness after his daughter dies that he cannot work. His friends attempt to reach out to him and bring him back to life-a life of course forever changed for there is no greater loss than the death of a child.


The coastal critics, left wing humanists all, bereft of the knowledge of the mysterium and tremendom of life, weren’t particularly fond of the film. Perhaps they are too busy with movies dealing with micro-aggression and pronouns, triggers and gender studies, everything coastal and liberal and all things with a short shelf life.  Don’t listen to them. I think their lack of soul prevents them from feeling the beauty of the movie.  What do they know about the holy? For them God and religion are four letter words.


One critic wrote “Collateral Beauty is emotionally manipulative without understanding how human emotions actually work.” Could not be further from the truth.  This movie is beautiful because there are neither pat answers to the ever present question of “why” nor the usual pap that is often delivered in sonorous tones. Unlike so many maudlin movies I have sat through, the stories within the story, dealing with death of a child, were so true to life that I realized how much I missed work as a hospital chaplain.


This movie is layered: stories within stories as one finds in all the classics. A beginning that is so sad and so dark with an ending that you would never expect. An ending that left me with more questions than answers. And stayed with me for days and days, wondering about the three main themes, ephemeral all of them-love, time and death and why the script writer   Allan Loeb chose them. What had life thrown his way? Had he read that Darwin wrote “I cannot think that the world, as we see it, is the result of chance; and yet I cannot look at each separate thing as the result of design?”


For those who like numerology, the belief in the divine, the mystical relationship between a number and one or more coinciding events this film is full of mystery playing on the number three. And for those who are religious the invocation Holy, Holy, Holy, comes to mind.


This movie is beautiful in its simplicity of cinematography, the beautiful words of Allan Loeb and of course the excellent acting of these well-known highly respected actors.  The movie washed over me taking me along its multiple story lines. But the greatness of a movie for me is how long it stays with me. And this one stays. So many questions-I wanted so much to speak to the writer and ask him about the characters and yet I shy away. If he tells me his interpretation it’s like reading a book and imagining the characters, then seeing a movie and thinking-oh dear, that’s not what I thought.  I am left wandering in my own thoughts with my own interpretation.


I loved this movie. If you want something that will leave you thinking rather than a movie that is two hours of action, so familiar because you have seen so many action movies exactly the same that they meld into one as  you make your way, see this one.


Then ask yourself why the writer played on the expression “collateral damage” and called it Collateral Beauty. 

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