(PCM) There is nothing that shakes you to the core than the loss of a loved one, so much so that it appears there is nothing that will ever make you smile again. That journey, from loss and grief to finding a way back to joy, is at the center of the heart-felt new movie, “Collateral Beauty,” a highly emotional holiday endeavor.
The film, from New Line Cinema, opens on Friday, Dec. 16. is about Howard Inlet, masterfully performed by Will Smith, is an ad exec, whose world stopped after the death of his six-year-old daughter. He spends his time erecting intricate domino arrangements, only to turn his back when they begin to tumble. His marriage, business and friendships are all in shambles and he feels powerless to find his way back to some semblance of a fulfilling life.
Howard does, in fact,write letters to the universe in the entities of Time, Love and Death, and is rattled when he begins to get answers. Time is played by Jacob Latimore, Love is played by Keira Knightley, and the charming and comedic Helen Mirren portrays Death.
The movie was written by Allan Loeb, (“Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” “The Switch,”` and 21”),directed by David Frankel (“Marley & Me”), and also stars Ed Norton, Kate Winslet and Naomi Harris, who round out the suburb A-list cast.
When asked what appealed to him about Loeb’s screenplay Will Smith said he was struck by that “Christmas flavor that I remember growing up in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and those types of films that are right on the edge of fantasy.”
Smith, the iconic 48-year-old actor, whose range includes romantic comedies, comic book, Sci-Fi, as well as highly dramatic films, added that those films have that special “Christmas magic to it, right on the edge, but dealing with things that are deeply and powerfully real and human”
Smith said that his character of Howard, “had life figured out, and then suffered a loss, and had to make his way back to even believing there was a possibility to have joy again. So I love that journey,” he added.
“Howard thinks about life a lot of the ways that I think about life,” the actor said. “So how he had to move from his mind, he had to move from thinking that he could solve all of the issues of life with his mind into accepting that there’s a certain amount of bleeding that you have to do to be able to purge and cleanse yourself to be able to experience joy, that the pain and joy and growth are all inexorably bound.”
The film makers say that while the story isn’t exactly a typical Christmas story, “yet it is about the holiday period, which is a time of both loneliness and magic, which really figured into the movie,” explained Anthony Bregman, one of the producers.
“It really is a time where people kind of take stock of family and take stock of what’s important to them, and that really figured into it. I think besides thematically the holiday season presented for [director] David Frankel a way to beautifully talk visually about the magic in our lives,” Bregman said.
“The beauty of the film is really in the lighting of the film and these little points of light that come from the decorations,” he added. “There’s this elevated sense visually of what life can be, which really matches what’s going on in the movie.”
Here is more of an inside look at “Collateral Beauty,” from the film’s creators:
Q: What is the ‘Collateral Beauty,” the characters, as well as each of us, is striving for?
ALLAN LOEB: The way you see the world; the way your heart opens and the way you relate to people after a tragedy can be very beautiful. It can be transformative.
Q:Allan, what was the spark for this story?
AL: About eight or nine years ago, I had this idea for this, but I didn’t write it until about two years ago. The first concept was someone writing letters to these abstractions. I didn’t even know what they were, but then eventually I kind of landed on Time, Love, and Death. It was a germ of a concept that grew.
Q: How so?
AL: It was a little story in my head that kept nagging at me, about a man who writes letters to abstractions like Time, Love and Death, and why would he do that?
Q: What happened after that?
AL: Well, then I kind of built it out from there over a period of years, actually. I just started with the idea of someone writing letters and the idea of his friends, his coworkers,his employees, I wasn’t sure who they were, gas lighting him, actually.
Q: Please tell me more.
AL: But finding the letters, and gas lighting him in order that they could sell the company.Actually it wasn’t as benevolent as it is in the movie. I think they care about him. In my earlier concept they just wanted to cash out, which makes them less likeable. And it just kind of came together from there, and I had no idea what it was. And for years it was just a story that kind of haunted me and stayed with me, until finally I pounded it out, sometime in 2014.
Q: Overall, what is the movie about?
AL: I believe that each of the characters have something to say that they weren’t able to say, and obviously Howard’s character in particular wasn’t able to for quite a longtime. So for me, that is something that I find very human. We all have something to say, and we’re all looking for someone to hear us. That was the connective tissue.
Q: How do you see the concept of collateral beauty?
DAVID FRANKEL: It’s really those things we sometimes take for granted or don’t notice all the time when they are taking place, but might be there every day, like a sunset, or fleeting moments like a child’s smile.
Q: Please tell me more.
DF: There are millions of examples of collateral beauty; they’re unique, and we all have different ideas about what they could be. They are the reason that we go on, and I think what’s really compelling about this story is that it reminds us to take notice of those brilliant fragments of life that make it worth living.
Q: Howard begins his journey as a highly successful and dynamic ad exec who uses the concepts of Time, Love and Death as powerful marketing tools. Then he changes.
SF: Yes, when his young daughter succumbs to be a fatal illness, his only communication are these angry an accusatory letters he writes to the universe. He is struggling with big, philosophical questions and looking to the universe for answers. Like a modern day King Lear, you might say that he is howling at the Gods.
Q: As the film’s director, David, could this movie have been shot anywhere else other than New York?
DF: I don’t think it could happen anywhere. I think there’s something really special about this city at Christmas that’s hard to describe. But I think you get a window into it when Howard’s riding across the bridge and with Claire [Kate Winslet’s character] seeing the Bergdorf windows. There are just these iconic images that we associate with magic. I think Christmas in New York is a special time, and I think it represents a magical world to people who live in every city in the world. So it was just a terrific opportunity to set the movie here.