I often use the website Rotten Tomatoes as a gauge for whether I choose to go see a movie in the theater or not. If you’re not familiar with this site, it’s where most of our country’s top film critics pool their reviews and then a rating is given by the “Tomatometer”, which is based upon the overall summation of those reviews. A good review is denoted by a fresh red tomato, which means at least 60 percent of all critics liked the movie. But if that rating falls below 60 percent, then it’s denoted by a rotten green tomato splat. Most often, when any movie drops below a 30 percent rating or less, I rarely, if ever, go see it because that means that at least 70 percent or more of all the critics in the country didn’t like it. And when the rating gets that low, I’ve usually tended to agree with the critics each time I’ve gone to see the film anyway. In light of that, when I saw on Rotten Tomatoes that a recent release titled “Collateral Beauty” received a measly 13 percent rating, I was extremely disappointed because all the previews I saw for this film had peaked my interest greatly. That being said, I opted to go against the critics, as well as the masses of people who saw it already and said it was terrible, and ironically, I’m glad I did because I truly treasured this movie.
Collateral Beauty is about a man named Howard (Will Smith) who has been broken ever since his young daughter died due to cancer. When the movie begins, it’s been over two years since that happened, yet Howard is still completely unable to effectively communicate with anyone nor live his life with any sense of normalcy. His company is also beginning to fall apart, much to the dismay and frustration of his fellow business partners, which include Whit (Edward Norton), Claire (Kate Winslet), and Simon (Michael Pena). While Howard spends most of his work days building complex chains of dominoes, his partners are trying to figure out a way to convince Howard to accept a buyout that’s being offered, which would help save the company and their jobs. When it’s decided that the only solution is to usurp control from Howard by proving to the board he’s incompetent, Whit hires a private detective to find enough evidence of that. In the process, it’s discovered that Howard has been mailing letters on a regular basis to “Love”, “Death”, and “Time” due to his immense grief. When they realize that’s not going to be enough to prove Howard’s instability, Whit runs into a strange woman named Amy (Keira Knightley) at his company who’s in line for some audition. After a brief conversation with her where it’s apparent she’s his type, Whit watches her abruptly disappear into the nearest elevator. He immediately follows in pursuit and ends up at an old, broken-down theater where he sees both she, and two others, Brigitte (Hellen Mirren), and Raffi (Jacob Latimore) rehearsing lines with each other. It’s then that Whit concocts the idea of hiring each of them to answer Howard’s letters by playing the respective parts of “Love”, “Death”, and “Time” where the main stipulation made is that Howard will only be able to see them. In doing so, he then plans on having the detective film Howard from safe distances and later digitally edit out the actor’s presences each time they confront him. This then will be used later as the evidence needed to prove that Howard is losing his mind and not able to make any type of sane business decisions. Ironically, all of this happens in the first ten minutes or so of the film, setting the stage for the rest of it.
Why I believe so many critics and viewers alike bashed this film is due to the spiritual complexity it presented. In the previews for it, it appears that there’s going to be a supernatural element present, yet when watching it, it’s pretty easy to think otherwise at the precise moment when Whit meets the three actors who end up playing Love, Death, and Time. But it’s also pretty easy to miss a few key lines early on in the movie as well that are strongly reminiscent of the premise from an old television show named “Touched By Angel”. In that series, angels appeared as everyday people who showed up in individual’s lives at cetain times for specific reasons to help them. And only those who needed to see them would. So, while many viewers may have thought they were misled and never caught on to any of the supernatural subtleties being presented, I clearly noticed them. And I also saw how those “actors” were there in the film not just to help Howard, but also to help heal the wounds that Whit, Claire, and Simon were carrying as well.
Movies like this are frequently hard to sell in mainstream society. They present elements that often go beyond most people’s thinking and spiritual views. The idea that angels could actually appear in human form and act just like us can seem quite preposterous to some. Yet I often believe that’s exactly how they’d present themselves in my own life if they ever appeared. That basically, I would never even know they were an angel in the first place. Frankly, I’ve even wondered at times if God or Christ or any other Higher Being of Light has done this in my life before without me ever knowing. While I may never discover the answer to that in this life, I can say this.
Collateral Beauty was exactly the type of movie I treasure because it presented some spiritual elements that left me expanding my mind rather than deflating it long after the credits rolled. It also left me with a very positive feeling and became the first movie where I wholeheartedly disagreed with the critically-bashed rating it received on Rotten Tomatoes. I’m glad I ignored all those bad reviews and went to see it anyway, because in the long run, I realize the openness of my spiritual journey these days helped me to fully appreciate this hidden gem of a movie. I personally give this film 4 ½ stars out of 5.
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson