Hector and the Search for Happiness

A psychiatrist searches the globe to find the secret of happiness.

Writers: Maria von Heland (screenplay), Peter Chelsom(screenplay) François Lelord(Novel) 
Director: Peter Chelsom
Stars: Simon PeggRosamund PikeJordan Schartner 
Run time/Rating: 114 Minutes/ R
Popcorn Score:Medium Popcorn with Butter

The concept of happiness and it’s meaning, or the pursuit of is nothing new to cinema, stories, or our thoughts we all have every day.  On that level Hector’s search in Hector and the Search for Happiness is not breaking any new ground.  However his search leads him and the audience on a trip around the world of discovery and is an enjoyable enough escape with a serious tone but a light heart and an uplifting feel.  Although funny-man Simon Pegg leads as Hector, the movie is more understated and not the laugh out loud comedy that some of the promotional material has promised.

Hector is a tired psychiatrist.  He is growing incapable of giving the advice and guidance which his profession requires and decides to take a leave of absences to research what makes us happy.  He explains this feeling and urge to his completely understanding girlfriend Clara (Rosamund Pike) and she instructs him that if he is going to go on this journey of self-discovery that he must go “all the way”.

In Hector’s case, “all the way” starts in the Far East.  He boards a plane and is just as quickly bumped up to first class where he encounters Edward, an international business man who upon arrival in China shows Hector some examples of  how one can be happy, at least some examples which money can buy.  As Hector realizes all of these luxurious experiences with valet cars, fancy restaurants, posh nightclubs, a beautiful foreign girl awakening in his bed, he always has his notebook in hand and will jot summaries down like “the ability to love more than one person” – that is what makes us happy.  It is a simple pursuit that takes Hector from the big city to the mountain home of a Tibetan monk before arriving in Africa to meet an old friend working at a refugee hospital.  In a dark turn for the movie, shortly after arriving in the remote unnamed location in Africa, Hector runs into the wrong crowd and for brief chapter of the  movie is imprisoned in an African drug gang’s basement cellar.  It cleans up soon enough and, although I never imagines Hector’s search coming to an end in that cave, adds some quick suspense to an otherwise gleeful movie.

His final destination, and arguably the purpose of his journey are reached when he arrives on the beaches of California to see an old girlfriend that has never left his mind.   I hate to say that Hector’s entire uncertainty about life boils down to his regret of leaving this girlfriend in the past but the way the movie finalizes leads me to conclude that.  The final third of the movie is a retelling of the grass not always greener on the other side lesson.  Via world travels, reconnecting with an old love who isn’t quite as she has lived in the memories and a Dr. who is conveniently studying happiness himself, Hector does reach his goal and finds what he is looking for.

I left the theater really liking this movie.  I may have been overwhelmed by its uplifting nature.  I have come to realize that I may tend to be gentler in a critical sense by “OK” movies which are intended to inspire, compared to “OK” dramas or comedies.  I guess I like to be inspired.  I say this because as the days have passed since my screening of “Hector” it has become increasingly more forgettable. In fact had I not written this review I most assuredly someday would have forgotten it.  That being said I think that it is a nice enough escape for someone who is looking to relax and enjoy a movie.  Maybe not one to rush out to the theater but to certainly check out when the moment presents itself.

Medium Popcorn with Butter.

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