Retreating from life after a tragedy, Howard (Will Smith) questions the universe by writing to Love, Time and Death. He receives some very unexpected answers and begins to see how these things interlock and how even loss can reveal moments of meaning and beauty.
So many fabulous actors in this film, Will Smith (Howard), Edward Norton (Whit), Keira Knightly (Amy / Love), Helen Mirren (Brigitte / Death), Michael Pena (Simon), Kate Winslet (Claire) and Jacob Lattimore (Raffi / Time).
It was like every time I looked at the screen there was some other famous actor in my face. Not that I'm complaining. Mirren, in particular, was quite mischievous and in top form.
Thar She Blows - Arr, me hearties, we'll be seeing Spoilers:
Howard is an Advertising Guru and runs his own agency but his child dies and he spends his time making very elaborate domino structures and then collapsing them. His friends Clare and Whit want to help Howard but he won't listen to them, or anyone.
Howard won't eat either and he does weird things like riding his bicycle into head on peak hour traffic. Clare is very concerned and regularly leaves gourmet dinners at Howard's door to make sure he eats. But soon discovers that The Super has been enjoying those meals.
Whit and Claire hire three actors to play Time, Love and Death in the hope that by having his questions answered by real people he will be able to shed his grief over his daughter. It has been two years since Olivia died.
Brigitte's turn as Death is quite productive and because she answers his questions he now believes she is Death. Weird.
Amy's turn as Love is less fortunate as Howard just leaves and Amy wants to quit. But Brigitte says she will play Time and Love because she knows all about Love. And, she emphasises that what they are doing is very much like a Chekhov play and there is a reason for that.
Howard and Madeline, a counsellor, have a talk about Collateral Beauty. She explains that when her daughter was dying a Woman sat down next to her at the Hospital and said don't forget to look for the Collateral Beauty. Madeline said that 2 years later she would just start crying for no reason. And, suddenly it hit her that she was experiencing the Collateral Beauty (CB).
Howard and Amy have a shouting match and Amy realises she has to convince Howard so she yells "Don't try and live without me Howard, because you can't". She means Love of course, and she storms off.
There's a nice conversation between Whit and Brigitte where she offers some parenting advice regarding his daughter. He is divorced and his wife got custody but the daughter is angry with him for breaking up the family. Brigitte tells Whit he needs to be a parent whether the daughter likes it or not. Which turns out to be a good suggestion as the daughter even begins to condone being stalked by her Dad.
The ending is a huge surprise, as I did not see it coming. So, it turns out Madeline is Howard's wife and they jointly lost Olivia to GBM Cancer but Howard can't say Olivia's name because he is too emotional.
So it's a particularly gooey ending, much kissing, crying and hugging as Howard finds he can finally talk about Olivia.
Oh, and a temporary revisit to the dominoes at the end of the film where they fade into the hospital floor, is very clever. Brigitte was the collateral beauty Woman in the Hospital with Madeline. As Brigitte said, only people who've lost people can see the CB.
NB: Oh, and there is much ado on the Internet about Love, Death and Time being Ghosts but it was explained that they are omnipotent and can choose who gets to interact with them. A Chekhov Play indeed.
The film made $88.4mil at the Worldwide Box Office, with production costs of $36mil.