It’s Christmas. This means we get treated to enchanting, moving pictures that thrive in the notion of giving, of love, peppered with a sense of surrealism, which can breed such wondrous, heartwarming slices of cinema that enrich the festive period, and give us plenty of films to indulge in over and over again, passing them down to the next generation and feeling rewarded from witnessing their faces light up in the same ways ours once did, and still do. Then you get get a good dollop of reindeer shit (Love Actually) across the Christmas period, contrived, mawkish films (Love Actually) that strive to be magical and yet feel as nauseous as you might after accidentally chomping in to a Brussels sprout. Which brings us to David Frankel’s Collateral Beauty.

Collateral Beauty Interviews

Will Smith plays Howard, an advertising executive who loses his daughter. Unable to find the happiness again in his life, he retreats within himself, but in doing so, risks losing his company, which could see the jobs of many at stake – including his business partner Whit (Edward Norton) and others such as Claire (Kate Winslet) and Simon (Michael Pena). Desperate to keep the company afloat, and also concerned for their colleague’s well-being, they devise an elaborate, optimistic plan – hiring three actors (Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley and Jacob Latimore) to help with their cause.

Partly why you may struggle to feel emotionally invested in this narrative is because everybody out to “help” our protagonist, appear to be doing so for financial gain, and not out of any actual compassion. Whether it be his colleagues simply wanting their jobs to be safe, or the actors making an easy pay-check, either way it’s self-serving and not empathetic, hardly in the spirit of Christmas. On a more positive note (there is one) – Will Smith turns in a nuanced display, and should be commended, for he’s a man with an incredible degree of natural charisma, and to strip himself of it entirely, as he does in this picture, must take some doing.

But there are just so many characters that we are expected to care for, it’s hard to feel attached to any one in particular. To have an ensemble feature is fine, but to give each and every role their own respective arc, each going through something dramatic, is just overbearing. The idea behind it too, with various characters representing Love, Death and Time – the colleagues each representative of one, as are the actors, is all so contrived. Not for me, ta.