Collateral Beauty — A Plot Review

collateralbeautyA sign of a great movie, just like that of a great book, is enough character depth, plot twists, and thematic nuances to invite you back for more. Though movie reviewers trashed it, I watched Collateral Beauty more than once… several times if truth be told. I love the message: Just be sure you notice the collateral beauty. The words bring meaning in the story after a trauma. They also bring meaning to our lives every single day. The first couple of times I rewatched the movie was to share the experience with friends. Later, I watched Collateral Beauty so I could write a plot review — actually simply an excuse to watch all the great actors yet again. 

Collateral Beauty — A Plot Review

Collateral Beauty, screenplay written by Allan Loeb, is about a successful New York advertising executive Howard (Will Smith) who suffers a tragic loss and retreats from life. 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

Energizing the Plot — THE BEGINNING (1/4)

In the first 7 minutes of the 96 minute film, we learn the basics:

  • the main characters
  • the underlining themes
  • the dilemma
  • the dramatic question: will he or won’t he find the answers he needs to triumph over death?

7 minutes into the movie Howard’s three partners take action. And so the plot begins. Can they bring Howard back to life in time?

First Energetic Marker: No Turning Back / End of the Beginning

At the exact 1/4 mark (24 minutes in), three actors are hired. The partners enter the exotic world of the middle, dragging Howard along with them.

 The Exotic World — THE LIGHT MIDDLE (1/4)

Second Energetic Marker: Recommitment / Halfway Mark

After the first visitation by the actors to Howard, both the partners and Howard recommit. Given a deadline (ticking clock) to save their business, the partners recommit to their plan to expose Howard’s erratic behavior to others, thus upping the ante and intensifying the plot. Howard recommits to finding answers by opening up to a grief counselor. 

Deepening the Plot — THE DARK MIDDLE (1/4)

Everything intensifies — the actors actions, the partners actions, and Howard’s reactions as he learns what he needs to heal.  

Third Energetic Marker: Dark Night / Crisis

At the exact 3/4 mark in the movie, Howard learns what the partners have done to save the business. 

Bring the Plot to Fullness — THE END (1/4)

The partners each face up to what they have to do now that all the masks are off and truth has been been told. Each partner has their own climax. Howard’s climax comes one scene before the very end of the movie — taking action that was impossible for him to take anywhere else in the story, and that he had been moving toward the entire time. 


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