The Bliss Blog


Love. Time Death. Three concepts that loom large in the human psyche’. Something none of us can escape; try though we might. Ideas that motivate and inspire us. Lenses through which we can view all of our relationships with people who cross our path; some family of origin and others family of choice who take extreme steps to help us heal.

These are overarching themes of the new film Collateral Beauty, starring Will Smith, Keira Knightly, Helen Mirren, Edward Norton, Naomie Harris,  Jacob Lattimore, Michael Peña, Ann Dowd and Kate Winslett. This ensemble cast supports each other well and weave a thread that begins with the death of a child and ends with a coming to terms of a sort. When someone we love dies, it as if a piece of us goes with them. Such was so with Howard Inlet whose 6 year old daughter died of an illness. As the film begins, he is offering a pep talk to the staff at the ad agency he co-owns; utilizing the three aforementioned concepts as the reasons people buy products. “We’re here to connect. These three things connect every single human being on Earth. We long for love, we wish we had more time and we fear death.” They are smiling approvingly.

Flash forward three years and Inlet is a fraction of the man he was, himself disconnected from his previous life. Sleep and food deprived, he huddles on floor of his near empty apartment and rides furiously fast into traffic as if daring other drivers to pick him off and put him out of his misery. He also constructs elaborate, multi-colored domino scultpures that he taps to watch them fall over. He writes letters to Love, Time and Death. When he does happen to tumble into slumber, he has memories of his beautiful little girl, as they play together in a park; him swinging her around as she laughs with delight.

His co-workers/friends are expressing growing concern for him personally and for their agency as it is in danger of crashing to the ground in the same manner as the dominoes, so they concoct a dramatic scheme to intervene. While it might seem to be opportunistic and self serving, I would like to believe the trio of Whit (Norton), Claire (Winslett) and  Simon (Peña) have everyone’s best interests at heart.

I was profoundly moved by the portrayal of the bereaved father and his authentic reaction to the death of his beloved daughter. From the perspective of this long time therapist/bereavement specialist, it seemed as if he was experiencing grief in ways that many do. There is no cookie cutter way of facing it. As abstract concepts of love, death and time, it seems that Knightly (Love), Mirren (Death) and Lattimore (Time) played their parts well and engage with Inlet and his co-workers as they too face their crises with aspects of life.

An out of the box plot twist at the end had me shaking my head, smiling and crying simultaneously.

The term, ‘collateral beauty,’ refers to the idea that in the midst of deep sorrow, there can be profound blessing. Sometimes we need to search for it intensely. Other times, it is ‘hiding in plain sight,’ right before our eyes in various disguise.

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