I love going to the movies. And most of y’all have gotten to know me enough now to know that the popcorn and a big cold Coca Cola are a big part of my love for the movie theatre. Everything I do somehow manages to involve food or snacks. Is it just me or does the movie theatre Coke actually taste better than when you get them other places? We went to the movies several times these last few weeks.
I like all different kinds of movies. Romance, comedy, suspense, sci-fi, I like them all. But occasionally, a movie comes along that really speaks to you. The movie we saw this week was one of those movies for me. Collateral Beauty starring Will Smith. It’s a very heavy movie about a man that loses his child to cancer, and in the aftermath of that tragedy, he loses his will to engage in life.
I loved this movie. It received terrible reviews from the movie critics, which makes no sense to me. I rarely agree with movie critics anyway I guess. In my opinion, Will Smith’s portrayal of grief was nothing short of Oscar worthy. If they would let me vote, he’d get mine.
I felt a connection to the message of this movie. Not on the level of what it’s like to lose a child, because I’ve never experienced that and can only imagine the pain that brings.
But I do understand grief. I understand wanting something back that you can never get back. I understand struggling to accept your new existence. I understand what it’s like to lose a piece of yourself, and know that you will never be the same again. I understand the feeling of wanting to disengage, to disconnect from reality because this new reality feels like a prison sentence that you can’t escape. And I know what it’s like to finally see the hope. To finally see the goodness.
In the beginning of the movie before the loss of his daughter, he makes a speech to his employees.
“What is your why? Why do you get up? Why do you do what you do? We are here to connect. Life is about people. Love, time and death. These three abstractions connect every human being. We all long for love, we wish we had more time, and we fear death.”
After the death of his daughter, he is filled with grief and anger, and he writes letters. One to Love, one to Time, and one to Death.
And one by one they appear and address his perceptions of them and how they have each ruined his life.
Death comes first and she says to him: “Nothing is ever really gone, if you look at it right.”
What did she mean by that? I think several things. Maybe that the spirit lives on. That existence is eternal. And maybe that whatever or whoever you’ve lost, helped shape who you are, who you’re becoming, and so in that way, those people and/or things that you lost are always a part of you.
Then Time says to him: “You are so angry with me, but I’m the one that should be angry with you. I am a gift and you are wasting it! If love is creation and death is destruction, I’m just the terrain in between.”
My take on that is that life is not a series of things that happen to you. Life simply is. Time doesn’t bring destruction nor does it bring healing or joy. It is simply terrain that we must travel through and it’s the way we choose to travel through that terrain and engage in life that decides how much healing and how much joy we have. Time is a gift, and it’s up to us to decide what we will do with it.
And then there was Love.
Love said to him: “I am the fabric of life. I’m the reason for everything. You ask people what is their why. I am the ONLY why. Don’t try and live without me.”
He replied: “I felt you everyday when she laughed and you broke my heart!”
And Love replied: “Yes, I was there in her laugh, but I’m also here now in your pain.”
And this, this line is maybe one of the greatest truths in the message of the movie.
Love didn’t fail him. Love didn’t disappoint him. People and circumstances, they can break your heart, but not love. Love didn’t break his heart. Love never fails. Real love is constant and unfailing. Real Love is God and He is always there. In all the good stuff, and also in our very worst pain.
The tag line of the movie is “Be sure to notice the collateral beauty.”
The message I took from the movie is this: that no matter what life throws at us, no matter how bad the circumstances or how agonizing the pain, there is beauty in it. You just have to choose to look for it. To look for the goodness. That thing that happened wasn’t good. It was awful. But there is goodness all around you. And when you finally choose to see it, when you finally accept that love really is the only why that matters, and that God is there with you through it all, it is then that you can begin to live again.
My story is ugly and awful and filed with heartache. But it’s also filled with goodness.
With collateral beauty.
Everyone eventually has their own unique story of loss, of destruction, of heartache. And eventually you all have to make a choice. Will you focus on the pain, or will you choose to see the collateral beauty?
Amy Thurston Gordy