Hector And The Search For Happiness stars Simon Pegg and Rosamund Pike. Pegg plays a psychiatrist called Hector and Pike is his long term partner / girlfriend Clara. The film is directed by Peter Chelsom whose last project was Hannah Montana: The Movie but who also directed the John Cusack / Kate Beckinsale rom-com Serendipity.
Hector appears to live in a perfect little middle class world where he earns enough money dispensing lazy advice to his clients to live in a Thames-side appartment. Clara appears to be doing well making up names for new medicines. Either way it’s just a short walk over the Millennium Bridge to Hector’s office. If you watch the film I believe there is an error as he is seen walking towards St Paul’s only for his office to be in South London – the only way for this to be possible would be for Hector to walk back across the bridge again which seems pointless.
Either way it would appear that below the surface Hector isn’t as happy as he would like to be and after a bit of a meltdown tells Clara that he needs to get away and find out what makes people happy. The rest of the film is about the literal and emotional journey that he goes on.
I am going to write two mini reviews for the film because I can’t decide if Hector is brilliantly constructed or is suffering from Amazing Spider-Man 2 disease i.e. it doesn’t know whether it wants to be serious or funny. I will attempt to explain my dilemma.
I left the cinema with a big smile on my face because the final act of the film is excellent and emotionally satisfying. It becomes a pretty straight laced grown-up drama with the right amount of well placed humour and superb acting from Pegg and Pike. Prior to that however my initial reaction had been oh dear its The Amazing Spider-Man 2 again. This was particular true of the middle act as the film veered sharply from so-so humour to flat out adult drama with real fear and threat.
There are a few cameos which is all well and nice. It’s not clear which part of Africa Hector travels to and apparently the monks he visits somewhere in China have Skype. There is a painful scene on an aeroplane where Hector starts to play with the various velcro strips that infest his outdoor shirt. I think it was supposed to be a humorous commentary on modern survival gear. The film is also very clunky with how it handles an early incident in which Hector almost cheats on his partner.
That being said as I continued to reflect on the film I realised there could be a lot more going on beneath the surface. The film works through three distinctly different phases each of which has a different tone. The first is the hermetically sealed perfect grey world of order that Hector inhabits at the beginning of the film. The second is the mixed up chaos of his journey around the world meeting a variety of characters and situations. The final act sees Hector completing his journey and finally growing up to become a new emotionally mature adult.
I think it can be argued that the changing tones of the film reflect the emotional journey that Hector is going on from certainty to chaos to recovery / self improvement. As a viewer I experienced the film in the same fashion going from disinterest to confusion to leaving the cinema with a smile on my face and feeling great. When you watch the film there are a couple of scenes with Hector as a small boy and his pet dog watching on. In one of the final shots of the film the small boy is replaced with the adult Hector. Is this not the small boy finally growing up to be a man?
I hope you can see the dilemma I faced in reviewing this film. It’s either a clever portrayal of a an emotionally immature man finally growing up or a film with multiple production companies and three writers who each wrote a different part of the script and didn’t compare notes. The only thing I can suggest is to get out there and watch it for yourself and make your own mind up. I don’t think it will be around for long so make a trip to the cinema this week – it’s worth going just to see the final act.