Seven Pounds Movie Review
Starring: Will Smith, Woody Harrison, Rosario Dawson
Director: Gabriele Muccino (Pursuit of Happiness)
Length: 2hr 3Min
Released: December 19, 2008
“If you are like most you will have one of two reactions, either leaving with your face covered with tears, or shaking your head.”
Seven Pounds stars Will Smith as IRS agent Ben Thomas. It’s a movie that is mysterious throughout keeping the viewer slightly out of the loop wondering what is going on. It is an emotional journey intended to slowly reveal the plot through subtle hints. Seven Pounds is a very slow paced film, only bearable because of Will Smith’s acting prowess. It is pretty clear that Ben, played by Will Smith, is more than he seems as he actively seeks to carefully analyze then help each person he meets.
The story unfolds as Ben makes visits to various people with different needs. Flashing his IRS badge he asks them both financial related questions as well as personal ones. He seems to be searching for something. As he is helping one of these strangers, the guy asks Ben “Why Me?” and Ben says “Because you’re a good person, even when you think no one is looking.” So he seems to be searching for “good people” to help. Why? It is very clear that Ben has a lot of emotional baggage as Seven Pounds is glittered with flashbacks which at first seem to be in the present. He is held captive by some sort of guilt or sad memory.
Overall the movie was well made, but as the quote above says (taken by a comment by user reviewer), you are either going to leave the theater crying or shaking your head. I happen to be the latter, despite the fact I am known to be very “emotional” when it comes to emphasizing with characters. Mainly because very early on in the movie it became crystal clear what the ending was going to be. It came too fast and too early. But then again I am the analyzer type that figures out plots pretty quickly to begin with. But what made me shake my head was not the plot, but the controversy that is the ending… it is definitely worth discussing from many different levels, especially from a moral standpoint.
** beware plot spoilers start here **
Journey to Self Redemption… or not
Many other viewers were very touched and loved Seven Pounds. I could definitely see why it would be considered a “tear-jerker” being that it is a journey of spiritual redemption where every tear-jerking stops were pulled to draw in the emotions of the viewer. However, the area worth discussing is the ending. There is no way of discussing the moral points here without ruining some of the plot so proceed at your discretion.
**last warning – spoiler ahead**.
Ben is clearly driven to care for people, not out of love, but out of guilt for the deaths he had caused from a past accident. It is a journey to self-redemption. Throughout the movie he is miserable, constantly haunted by his past. He cuts off his relationships, leaves his brother constantly worried and wondering where he is as he only focuses on trying to redeem his own guilt and ultimately he sacrifices his own life to help others. To be explicit, he commits suicide in order to help those he has deemed to be “good people” by donating his organs and in essence pay for his past.
There is so much to discuss here.
Was it really an honorable thing for him to sacrifice so much to make his wrongs right? Is that even possible? Does doing good, take away the wrong?
Motivated by Guilt or Love? Self or Others?
He is living his life to help people in order to fight away his guilt. He is out to find good people who need are in need of dire help. Sounds reasonable enough perhaps even honorable, and the movie does glorify his actions by making his acts seem noble and almost as if this was his last option. If you cant bear with the guilt and can’t live on, might as well do something good as you go. By the end of the movie, you sympathize with Ben and feel like he had to do this and that it was a noble thing he did.
However amidst all the feelings and emotions, you forget You forget that he completely deserted his loving brother who suffers throughout the ordeal. He also pulls in his childhood friend to make sure his organs are donated accordingly, never quite reciprocating his friends love for him and leaving him to suffer in the guilt of the final suicide. He also leaves many behind that love him, mourning and in sorrow. There is no followup showing the dramatic emotional consquences of his death on the people around him and the people who love him. Anyone who has been connected to a suicide knows the immense guilt and sorrow involved by all parties related to the person who commits suicide. Should I have known? Should I have seen the signs? Could I have done something? His brother may ask, could I have done something? His friend could ask, should I have stopped him? His lover may ask, did he do it because of me?
Ultimately suicide is shown to be a very, very selfish act. But all the emotions and the “selfless good” he produced in his death will overshadow this simple truth.
In his quest to appease his own guilt, he leaves a string of hurt people. He also was motivated by guilt for most of the movie with the lone exception of the wanting to help Emily Posa, played by Rasario Dawson, who he falls in love with. (By the way, I found it ridiculous he goes from the initial “Hi” to “What if we had children” within a very short time period). A little too convenient of a setup for another tear jerking moment.
People would argue that the movie glamorizes suicide. I don’t think it necessarily glamorizes it, but it does distorts our perceptions. You end up feeling like what he did was “ok” in the sense that it brought some good, that it maybe was partially out of “love”. It masks all the pains and hurts he caused and the selfish motivations that started it all. Let’s be clear. Suicide is the most selfish act there is. To commit suicide is to take your life because you can’t deal with some sort of pain or struggle despite the fact that it leaves so much pain and guilt for those who are left behind.
Can one redeem himself through good works?
Can one do enough good works to cover the guilt of doing something wrong?
How can one forgive oneself?
Can suicide be justified?
Was Ben’s act a selfless or selfish act?
How would you have felt if you were Ben’s brother? As Emily?
Feel free to agree or disagree. Leave your thoughts below. Rational clean discussions only.
The speed in which the Ben and Emily fall in love is a bit too hollywood. Not good in the way it will impact our perception of love and relationships. They meet, they date, they sleep with each other, talk about having children, then he dies for her. Is this really how love works?
The main characters do have a love scene, though for Hollywood’s standards, it was done conservatively without nudity or unnecessarily long. Though it speaks volumes about how much Hollywood has succumbed to our sexualized culture that a scene like this would be called conservative.
Beware of violent flashbacks of a car accident.
Again feel free to leave thoughts below.