Collateral Beauty Ending Explained & Film Analysis

The meaning of the film “Collateral Beauty”

“There are three Will Smiths: one in fantasy action films, the other in comedies, and the third in potentially tearful dramas and even melodramas. The third question is the most difficult: do you want to meet Will number three, and even with a mystical smell? Having survived a personal tragedy, Howard writes letters addressed to time, death and love. As one of the heroes of the film rightly notes, there is nothing wrong with that: children write letters to Santa Claus. But Santa only answers the children with gifts, and Time, Death and Love set out to answer Howard personally. “Author: Dmitry Belov, film critic


The key theme of Phantom Beauty is the loss of a child. Each of the main characters is losing children in a certain sense.

Center – the story of Howard and Madeline. Their daughter died of a rare form of cancer. Simon is terminally ill and realizes that soon he will have to part with his son, who will hardly remember him. Whit’s daughter does not allow her father to approach her, as she considers him a traitor. Claire has put off starting a family for a career and realizes that it is too late for her to have a child of her own.

At first, we only know about Howard’s tragedy – and the fact that he has not been able to return to normal for two years. Howard refuses to accept what happened. Refuses to give the name of his daughter and her diagnosis; refuses to sign on paper confirming that Olivia is no longer there; refuses to accept the offer to sell the company …

But gradually the personal dramas of each of his trinity of fellow colleagues are revealed – and it becomes clear that Howard is not alone in denying the obvious. Simon, Claire and Whit try to suppress their own torment and diligently hide it from others. But all three are rescued by the very actors they hired – or thought they hired.

The meaning of the film "Phantom Beauty"

In fact, each of Howard’s friends needs help – as much as Howard himself.

Who were the actors really?

Whit thinks he came up with an ingenious plan and found the perfect people to carry it out. Only the actors he hires are not actors at all. Amy is really Love, Bridget is Death, and Raffy is Time. They are truly immortal entities, the human embodiment of three abstractions. And it is not Whit that draws them into an adventure, but they themselves offer their help to the trinity of friends.

Amy comes to the casting at an advertising agency where friends work, with the sole purpose of luring them into an old theater, where Bridget and Raffy are already waiting. Amy gets Whit’s attention and makes him follow her. The bright red riding hood that keeps Whit from losing sight of Amy is, of course, also part of the plan.

Let’s say for a moment that Amy is an ordinary girl, an actress, who wants to get a role in advertising. Then her actions seem extremely illogical. Why run away from casting? She is allegedly late for the rehearsal – but this is just an amateur production, which she is preparing with her friends. What prevented Amy from warning them that she would be late at the casting? ..

However, Amy herself diligently pretends that she does not like the whole idea of ​​Howard’s deception. Don’t believe it – it’s just acting. Yes, the play of an immortal entity who pretends to be an actress who plays an immortal entity …

The meaning of the film "Phantom Beauty"

Amy (Love) pretends that she does not like Whit’s idea, but you should not believe it – she herself lured her friends to the “rehearsal”

Whom do Love, Time and Death help?

Each of the three friends does not get along with one of the abstractions. Whit – with Love: because of fleeting hobbies, he destroyed the family and lost the trust of his daughter. Claire is with Time: she thinks that she will no longer be able to have a child because of her age. Simon is with Death: he is afraid to tell his family about his diagnosis. Howard has problems with all three.

Love, Time and Death draw closer to the company of colleagues and help them to accept and rethink their position. Amy forces Whit to win his daughter’s love. Bridget helps Simon tell the truth to his wife. Raffy proves to Claire that she doesn’t need to be the biological mother of a child in order to raise him well.

Later it turns out that Bridget managed to help another heroine of our story – Madeline. Bridget’s words about ghostly beauty help Madeline not only accept her own tragedy, but also become a support for other parents who have lost their child. What about Howard?

Love, Time and Death challenge Howard to a dialogue, but they do not play the key role in his rebirth. Their emotional speech pulls Howard out of the vicious circle of suffering and prompts him to take the first step towards Madeline. Now she is, and only she helps Howard to cope with the pain.

The meaning of the film "Phantom Beauty"

Bridget (Death) explains to Simon that he is depriving his loved ones of the opportunity to say goodbye to him

Howard and Madeline’s relationship

Howard and Madeline, who throughout the film behaved like strangers, end up husband and wife in the finale. Why did they pretend all this time? ..

They weren’t pretending. They knew very well what unites them. But Howard’s pain was so intense that he simply could not accept what was happening. He tried to erase everything from his memory – Madeline, Olivia, Olivia’s illness and death. That is why it took him so long to enter the meeting that Madeline was leading. Therefore, the first conversation with Madeline after breaking up was so difficult for him. Therefore, he was unable to name his daughter.

Perhaps Howard’s behavior looks odd. But refusing to recognize your ex-wife is no stranger than sending letters of Love, Death and Time, right?

In his farewell card, Howard wrote to Madeline: “If only we could be strangers again.” Two years later, without knowing anything about each other’s life, they really became strangers. Madeline does not know that Howard is slowly going insane alone, that he has let his life and the affairs of the company take its course.

Madeline herself did a great job on herself and even found the strength to help others. She assumes that Howard was able to recover, which is why at first she presses so hard on him, forcing him to name his daughter. But very soon Madeline realizes that Howard still hasn’t survived the tragedy. Then she changes her strategy and decides to play along with him. Now they are just strangers.

Howard and Madeline are having dinner together – this is one of the key scenes in the film. Madeline talks about her daughter’s death as if it were only her child . Howard himself is still unable to express his pain, but he is already ready to get out of the cage and waits for Madeline to help him in this. And Madeline helps.

The meaning of the film "Phantom Beauty"

Madeline understands the idea of ​​ghostly beauty better than anyone else.

The meaning of the ending Collateral Beauty

Madeline continues to gently nudge her ex-husband into accepting what happened and finally forces him to name their daughter’s name. The hardest thing for both is over, and the spouses are starting their relationship with a clean slate. Earlier, Madeline admitted that she still loves Howard – obviously, this feeling is mutual.

In the final scene, Howard sees on the bridge all the trinity of his transcendental assistants – Time, Love and Death. After a moment, they disappear. With this gesture, they say goodbye to Howard and make it clear that their work is finished this time. All four friends have coped with their problems, and the immortal entities can return to their business.

Alternative explanation Collateral Beauty

Above, I have outlined the version that seems to me the most logical and convincing. But if this interpretation is not realistic enough for you, then here is an alternative explanation of the meaning of the film and the ending. The actors Whit and company hired are truly ordinary mortals, and they’ve gotten used to their roles very well. The actors were able to help each of the friends deal with their problems – but only because they heard words from them that they were afraid to say to themselves.

Why, then, do the actors disappear from the bridge in the final scene? It’s simple: they weren’t there. Although the actors themselves were real people, in the finale, the trinity simply dreamed of Howard. He throws a farewell glance at them as a sign that he has accepted their words that Death is natural, Time is inevitable, and Love is boundless.

The meaning of the film "Phantom Beauty"

In the finale, Howard was able to understand and accept what Death, Time and Love proved.

The meaning of the name Collateral Beauty

In the original, the film is called Collateral Beauty . A more accurate translation of the English collateral is “collateral”, “secondary”. Perhaps the title “Byproduct Beauty” would sound strange, but it reflects the idea of ​​the film.

The idea of ​​collateral beauty is that even pain and death cannot deprive a person of new discoveries and experiences. Madeline describes her understanding of collateral beauty as a sense of oneness with the whole world. Each person experiences similar feelings throughout life: pain from loss, love, regret for lost time, and this unites all people, makes even strangers close.

None of the heroes will be able to live in the ideal world of a happy family, but on the other hand, life has given each of them a unique experience. For Madeline, this is an opportunity to help other parents. For Howard, Madeline’s newfound love. For Simon – the warmth of the last days, which he will spend in the circle of a loving family. For Whit – communication with his daughter, whom he has to win back from his stepfather. For Claire – raising a child who will not be her own.

Ultimately, understanding collateral beauty is wisdom, the ability to accept life as it is, along with all pain and suffering.

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