(Warning: Massive spoilers for Collateral Beauty follow.)
Smith's character writes letters to abstract concepts, but the three don't start visiting him in a magical-realist manner. That would make more sense. No, "Love," "Time," and "Death" are actually actors hired by Norton, Winslet, and Peña to trick Smith's character into going insane so that they can take control of their struggling ad company. Imagine if Bob Cratchit hired street performers to play the ghosts to haunt Scrooge. A little fucked up, right?
Collateral Beauty is a movie about a man being emotionally tormented and manipulated by his co-workers. The oddest part is that this story is not presented as a Charlie Kaufman-meets-Mad Men dark comedy about soulless corporate string-pullers. The film's script, by Allan Loeb (21), portrays the deception as sweet and noble, even, and director David Frankel shoots it with an angelic glow. It's like the movie is unaware of how creepy its characters are behaving. (In one of the strangest scenes, Mirren's actress even explains the term "gaslighting" to the advertising executives, and they pretty much shrug.)