Collateral Beauty

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Collateral Beauty Movie Poster Image
Cast is best part of sentimental drama about grief.
  • PG-13
  • 2016
  • 94 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 9 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 8 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Several clear, repeated messages about work-life balance (careers are important, but not enough to sacrifice your family for), parent-child relationships (parents must love their children unconditionally, no matter what), the importance of love (it doesn't go away even if you're heartbroken), and grief (it never really goes away, but you don't need to let it consume you). Themes include compassion and empathy.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Although they do something ethically murky to their friend/partner, Whit, Claire, and Simon are caring friends who genuinely love and want to help Howard. Despite being initially frozen by grief, Howard knows about his friends' issues and promises to help them.

Violence

Grieving parents tell stories about their dead children. A man nearly gets in accidents on his bike. A man coughs violently and is sick. Some angry confrontations.

Sex

Flirting, references to adultery, a few couples who embrace. A character researches potential sperm donors.

Language

Occasional strong language includes "bulls--t," "s--t," "ass," "bitch," and one "f--king," said in anger.

Consumerism

Apple, iMac.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A toast among adults.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Collateral Beauty is an emotional drama about an advertising genius (Will Smith) who's lost the will to work in the three years since his young daughter's death. The movie tackles mature themes related to grief (grieving parents tell stories about their dead children), loss, divorce, work-life balance, and death, so although the content isn't all that edgy, it's likely too heavy for younger viewers. Occasional strong language includes "bulls--t," "s--t," "ass," "bitch," and one "f--king." A man nearly gets in accidents on his bike, and there's some mild flirting, references to adultery, and a few couples who embrace. The movie promotes compassion and empathy, and viewers will get plenty of lessons about the importance of family and how life has three ultimate motivators -- time, love, and death.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 10-year-old Written bysah777 December 26, 2019

A WORK OF ART...

Don't believe the negative reviews. This is an artistic masterpiece. The mysterious revelation at the end just adds to the beauty.

For parents: A little m... Continue reading
Adult Written byhaula_taqya April 17, 2019

Trailer

Actually it can be good, but the plot is so fast and a little bit random. You just need to watch trailer, it's better than the movie.
Teen, 16 years old Written bymollymeissner November 25, 2018

An Amazing Story About our Connection to the World Around us

I really wanted to write a review on this movie because I could not help but feel disappointed in the review Common Sense gave it. I think this movie deserves... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old July 29, 2018

Emotional

This movie is very emotional and sad. There are lot of great messages that can really move you. It is a bit difficult to understand at first but throughout the... Continue reading

What's the story?

COLLATERAL BEAUTY opens with advertising firm partners Howard (Will Smith) and Whit (Edward Norton) celebrating a successful year. Howard gives an inspirational speech saying that everything people do in life is because of three concepts -- time, love, and death. Then, in the next scene, it's three years later, and Howard is busy building an elaborate domino maze, only to flatten it. Whit and two other business partners, Claire (Kate Winslet) and Simon (Michael Pena), discuss the fact that Howard lost his 6-year-old daughter and hasn't worked since. They want to sell their now-floundering business, so they hire a private investigator to have Howard, who owns 60 percent of the company, declared mentally incompetent. They end up hiring three actors -- Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley, and Jacob Latimore -- to play the concepts of Death, Love, and Time with Howard. Meanwhile, each actor's assigned concept speaks directly to issues dealt with by Whit, Claire, and Simon.

Is it any good?

The fabulous cast saves this sentimental holiday drama, but it still ultimately feels more like a big-budget Hallmark Christmas movie than an awards-caliber film. Collateral Beauty isn't bad, but it's also not as memorable as would be fitting for the acclaimed ensemble. There are occasional moments of humor, thanks to the gifted actors, but there's no getting around the fact that the story is treacly sweet. Life lessons are served over and over again for all of the characters (and the audience), not just Howard.

In addition to Howard's three friends and the trio of Love, Death, and Time, there's another character worth mentioning -- Madeleine (Naomie Harris), who runs a bereavement group that Howard attends for parents who've lost their children. Their instant chemistry makes sense, since they have a tragic loss in common. But in the end, all the fine acting (and with Smith, there's a bit of overacting, too, in a couple of climactic scenes...) doesn't rise above the movie's tender but cheesy twists.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the messages in Collateral Beauty. What does the story have to say about the concepts of love, time, and death?

  • Who do you consider a role model in the movie? Why? What characteristics do they display?

  • How does the movie promote compassion and empathy? Why are those important character strengths?

  • What do you think about the movie's ending? What do you think it means?

Movie details

Character Strengths

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