Film Review – Hector and the Search for Happiness
Hector and the Search for Happiness
Director Peter Chelsom‘s Hector and the Search for Happiness doesn’t do anything special but has a nice message even if getting to that message takes some less interesting detours.
This is a movie about a guy going on a journey for self discovery. We know what we are getting here pretty quickly, some montages of “exotic” places, a few jokes, some life lessons thrown at us in predictable fashion, and the inevitable figuring out what is really important even when it was staring you in the face the whole time. What is important to our main character is really obvious but it is at least done in a satisfying way when realized by him.
Hector (Simon Pegg) is a successful psychologist that appears to have a great life, good job, and he enjoys a sense of order that is being kept in his routine. He has a beautiful, successful girlfriend, Clara (Rosamund Pike), who not only accepts his eccentricities about order in his life but seems to love them as much as he does. In fact, she seems to love just being around him, they make jokes with each other and even have a good sex life. Despite all this Hector is feeling restless. He wonders what is it that makes people happy. He feels that he is missing something both for himself and his patients, who he has started to feel like their problems are insignificant compared to “real” problems in the world.
This makes Hector decide that he wants to figure out what causes happiness in peoples lives to recapture it for himself. We get hints at what causes this for him, dreams involving himself as a child around an old plane with a dog nearby. Hector’s journey combines looking into places very different then his life in England but also a chance to reconnect with people. His friend Michael (Barry Atsma), who now works in Africa and his old girlfriend Agnes (Toni Collette).
Hector has a string of coincidences on his trip. Including running into a rich man in China Edward (Stellan Skarsgård), who is able to show him how the rich live. He also meets many people that seem like they shouldn’t know English but do and are able to share some wisdom with him or make him have some major life changing affirmation or trauma. Most of these are very obvious in what Hector will see or learn from these moments but considering the type of movie we are watching it is to be expected. While distracting, what is less forgiving is how little many of these events seem to really effect Hector. He seems willing to move on from these moments really quickly. There is one that is actually really scary, that while it is happening is treated very seriously, and yet is almost non-existent after the fact.
Distracting as well was the film’s attempt at humor, which played up Hector as being a klutz or embarrassing himself in public. They were rather obvious and didn’t make me or anyone else in the theater laugh. It also seemed out of place with Hector’s personality. It was more playing up what Simon Pegg the Actor has done in other roles then really fitting into what is happening here. Pegg himself is fine overall. He isn’t always being his usual joker character and he is convincing when the scene needs him to show some strong emotion but it isn’t the selling point for the film.
The best moments pretty much all revolve around Rosamund Pike as Clara. Rosamund Pike is one of those actresses that just enhances anything she is in and here she is the emotional center for me as she tries to support Hector in his quest but is left to wonder what it means for their relationship. The phone calls between them are the best moments, where you feel the tension of emotions on the screen between these two. Plus you get to hear Pike use the phrase “skanky sock drawer girl” which is one of the most amusing things I have heard all year.
I will admit the ending got me a bit emotional even if getting to that point wasn’t the smoothest of transitions. The actual revelation for Hector fit with where we knew his character needed to go and was written beautifully in terms of raw emotion and saying the things that needed to be said. This gave us something to grab onto and see more about what Hector was going through even when so many answers about him as a person are still left vague.
You know what you are going to get from this film from the trailer. You see some pretty places, get some emotional moments between the two leads, and a few small life lessons and call it a day. It isn’t offensively bad but it is very predictable in almost everything that it is doing. Rosamund Pike raises the scenes she is in just by virtue of her screen presence and infectious personality, and the ending is done very nicely.