Collateral beauty.

I’m a sucker for a good movie. Movies hold an incredible amount of power over you as a viewer if you open your mind and explore all of their hidden life lessons. A few weeks ago I sat down to watch Collateral Beauty by accident (we got the time wrong for the movie Lion). For 97 minutes I was captivated. So captivated in fact that I felt compelled to write about it.

In a nutshell, Collateral Beauty is about finding beauty in the eyes of grief. In time, love, and death we are all connected.

The main character Howard, played by Will Smith retreats from life after suffering a great tragedy. While his concerned friends try desperately to reconnect with him, he seeks answers from the universe by writing letters to Love, Time and Death. But it’s not until his notes bring unexpected personal responses that he begins to understand how these constants interlock in a life fully lived, and how even the deepest loss can reveal moments of meaning and beauty.

We long for love, we wish we had more time, and we fear death.  And it’s true. As human beings we can’t deny ourselves these things as much as we cannot deny ourselves of food, water and shelter.

In our lives we find it easy to blame. To blame love for betraying us, blame time for going too fast and blame death for taking away all that was good for us. It takes a special kind of someone to find the beauty in the face of this kind of adversity.


But what would you say to Love, Time, and Death?

It’s a difficult premise to wrap your head around. Trying to define these elements and let them boldly challenge a main character’s attitudes and assumptions, face-to-face, about their purpose in the world and what they mean to them is not an easy feat.

Love is highly empathetic to grief. Empathy being a part of love that speaks in emotional terms that you can feel. Love isn’t just the part where everything is great; it’s also the unbelievable pain you feel when something is taken away, and that in no way diminishes it or ends it.

Time is a concept. There is no beginning, no end. We only feel time when we feel it in our bodies. Time is set to measure existence and is a gift. You squander that gift when you do nothing or let it go. Real time is when you surround yourself with the people you love to create an impact, to live a life full of love that not even death can conquer.

Death is a fear. In death, we question life. Love betrays us and time decays us.

So basically our life is a compilation of the good and the bad moments which we go through. And life in itself is the sum of those moments. It’s a collateral beauty! The beauty that seems impossible to be seen but found within us all.

And I think that’s why the movie struck such an important chord with me. Because it may take a lifetime to understand that within a dark and ugly place there is a beauty and love there so strong that not even death can dishevel it. In fact, the beauty in it all is that love prevails even after and through death and the impact of that trauma brings us closer to the love that we shared for that person and all the ways love of that individual has affected our lives and the lives of others.

The secondary beauty that comes in death is that life is a teacher. When we can see love where darkness used to reside we can finally turn our lives and those around us into something remarkable.

The concept of a movie such as Collateral Beauty is a difficult one to struggle with. You don’t want to negate or underestimate people’s suffering in this world. But you have to believe that there is, in the crassest possible way, a silver lining. You can’t remove yourself from humanity simply because you’re in pain. It’s the connectedness we have that heals us.

The movie ends in full circle – questioning whether the characters of love, time and death really did exist or were just figments of Howard’s imagination all along. Maybe when we are all faced with tragedy or a deep loss in our lives we look to the universe for help. This help comes in the form of love, death and time to help rebuild us and allow us to reconnect within ourselves so that we too can find the collateral beauty in our life.

In the most tragic of circumstances we blame love on time, time on death, and death on love. But we can also see a world of beauty. Grieving over death takes time, and in time we learn to love again. Be sure to notice the collateral beauty. You have this profound connection to everything, just look for it and you’ll find it.

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