Collateral Beauty

Hey readers! I come from the distant land of Düsseldorf where dirt is probably illegal and cappuccinos are wallet-busting. Five euros- emotional damage has been done. In any case, long layovers bode well for slow writers like me, especially when caffeine seems to slow down the writing process even more and convince me further that George RR Martin and I would get along quite well!

Originally, when I got off my flight from Boston I was going to write about the magic of airports and their creative, albeit forceful pairing of culture and chaos. But instead, I’d rather tell you about the movie I watched on the plane.

Collateral Beauty has gotten a lot of buzz in the past months and rightfully so. Will Smith is neither fresh nor prince-like in his role as a grieving father but rather a recognizable portrait of pain in its messy, unmerciful form. The loss of his young daughter grates away at his being, causing him to dispel love as a myth, time as a thief, and death as a gluttonous, scavenging monster. He lets his anger be known to the most misunderstood and crucial elements of life through a series of letters addressed simply to Time, Death, and Love. He likens Time to dead tissue that does not decompose, shuns Death for taking his daughter instead of him, and simply bids Love a curt farewell. It’s grief in abstract form yet Smith’s character, named Howard, is recognizable to many. How can someone cope with the loss of someone, every way a part of them, when the very things that are supposed to characterize life and make it unmistakably beautiful steal happiness in its most real and fleshy form?

Howard can’t even begin to wrap his head around it but his confusion only multiplies when things become people and Death, Time, and Love greet him in the flesh. Death, played by the fantastic Helen Mirren, finds him in a park and throws him for a complete loop with her pensive yet slightly cheeky banter. Time, an intelligent thug, takes an unwelcome jab at agitated Howard, opening fresh wounds that can’t be repaired by a soft and teary Love, played by Kiera Knightly. Understandably, Howard pleads insanity but resists it a little less when grief’s ravenous bite loses some of its sting. When the grandiose themes of life and loss breathe just like he breathes, grief seems less superior and more manageable.

There are faint, tickling twists throughout this spectacular film and truths, both personal and parroted by many, that make Collateral Beauty much more than just a must-see.

It’s a movie about grief, death, humans navigating humanhood but it’s also about taking notice and milking life instead of squelching it. By far, the sticking line of the film, spoken with extreme care by Death, dressed in cobalt blue, is we must “take care to notice the collateral beauty of it all.”

At this point, I’ve probably said “life is beautiful” in about ten different ways with the help of a much less frightening Grim Reaper but once you see this movie, I think you’ll want to remind every irreplaceable fixture of your life that when life is chaotic enough, you get to call it beautiful and you get to pen your frustrations to universal abstractions that feel so visceral and cut and stitch and depress and elevate. It’s all collateral beauty, not damage-proof but worthy of notice. Worthy of full-on, unapologetic, blemished living.

In other words, you really have to see this movie!

Take Notice and Love Hard,

Anna

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