Collateral Beauty parents guide

Collateral Beauty Parent Review

This somewhat sentimental story gives Howard the chance to confront trio of beings (Love, Time, Death), that personify mankind’s greatest hopes and fears.

Overall B+

A successful New York advertising executive (Will Smith) retreats from life after a personal tragedy. Not content to watch him isolate himself from the world, his friends come up with a plan to help him overcome his grief.

Violence B-
Sexual Content B
Profanity C-
Substance Use A-

Collateral Beauty is rated PG-13 for thematic elements and brief strong language.

Movie Review

Three years ago, Howard (Will Smith) was the head of a prosperous advertising agency in New York City. The secret of his success was connecting with people. He was particularly interested in the universal motivations of longing for love, wishing for more time and fearing death. Then his daughter died…

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Unable to come to terms with the loss, the once gregarious entrepreneur now isolates himself from his coworkers, rides his bike like a man with a suicide wish, and finds no reason why he should carry on. Although they sympathize with his sorrow, his business partner Whit (Edward Norton) and head executives Claire and Simon (Kate Winslet and Michael Peña) are becoming increasingly alarmed. Not only is Howard hurting himself, but his disengagement with work is threatening the company’s survival and the economic prospects of its many employees.

Although all three know something needs to be done, it is Whit who comes up with the plan. Stumbling upon a group of actors in need of financial support, the money-minded man offers to pay them to pretend to be Love (Keira Knightley), Time (Jacob Latimore) and Death (Helen Mirren), the three abstractions that seem to be all that preoccupies Howard’s mind. After some persuasive negotiation, Claire and Simon agree to the idea, hoping it will help Howard’s mental health. And the thespians sign on for the what appears to be the greatest improvisational and characterization opportunity of their performance careers.

In the same sort of spirit as It’s a Wonderful Life that features the angel-in-training Clarence, and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future in A Christmas Carol, this story gives Howard the chance to confront this trio of beings, that personify mankind’s greatest hopes and worries. The experience also stretches the actors as they are forced to find words of wisdom beyond their own, especially when they discover it isn’t Howard alone who is grappling with these concerns.

It is obvious the ambitious movie desires to shed some light on these issues for viewers too. While the script is not particularly religious, it does imply there are forces at work in the cosmos beyond human comprehension. Including the efforts of a grief counselor (Naomie Harris) and the selfish and selfless intentions of friends, the film explores these deep emotions and attempts to give the characters and the audience hope, as well as a reason to get up and try life again.

Even though it is set in the holiday season, this overcoming-your-trials tale likely won’t be first choice on the list of festive activities. Featuring foul language (including a sexual expletive) along with mild sexual banter and mentions of infidelity, the greatest cause for apprehension from family audiences will undoubtedly be its themes of depression and heartache. However, the reminder to look for beauty even in the ugliest situations is a message worth celebrating.

Directed by David Frankel. Starring Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley, Will Smith . Running time: 97 minutes. Theatrical release December 16, 2016. Updated

Get details on profanity, sex and violence in Collateral Beauty here.

Collateral Beauty Parents Guide

The three abstractions offer some interesting council: Do you agree with Love’s claim that she is still there, even in one’s grief? Why do you think Time reminds us that he is a gift? And what do you make of Death’s observation that a person can live right, but not die right? What advice do they give that might be of use to you? What words of wisdom or comfort would you offer someone dealing with the loss of a loved one?

Why do you think the death of his daughter completely overwhelms Howard? How differently do some of the other characters depicted in the movie face that same loss? Is it okay to be broken by such a tragic event? Is it okay to stay broken? Does Howard’s personal grief impact others? How does it affect him? What reasons might you find to make life seem worth living again? Where would you look to find healing?

In the movie, Howard spends a lot of time with dominos. What parallels might be drawn from the length of time it takes to set them up verses the time it takes to knock them down? What other metaphors do you see in the inclusion of this pastime in the film?

How can you notice the collateral beauty in the difficult trails in your life?