Fearing I was beginning to get into a rut of bizarre proportions, I turned to my friends on Facebook and asked for recommendations for the Stream. I received quite a large number for which I am thankful. Today features the first recommendation received; the British dramedy featuring Simon Pegg now available via Netflix.
Hector (Simon Pegg) is a psychiatrist who leads a life that is anything but extraordinary with his girlfriend Clara (Rosamund Pike). After listening to unhappy patients, hour after hour, day after day, Hector losing his patience (get it) and begins lashing out. He decides to take a trip to China to research happiness, leaving Clara behind. Hector is hoping to find out what makes people happy in the hopes he’ll find his own. He befriends a wealthy businessman Edward (Stellan Skarsgård) who offers Hector a trip of the utmost happiness while in China. Hector’s wild night leads him to a monastery before he leaves to visit his old friend Michael (Barry Atsma) in Africa. From Africa, Hector heads to Los Angeles to visit their friend Agnes (Toni Collette), a psychologist working with the foremost authority on happiness, Professor Coreman (Christopher Plummer). Agnes just so happens to be Hector’s first love and possibly the key to the happiness he seeks.
Hector and the Search for Happiness is based on the novel from French psychiatrist François Lelord and brought to life on the screen by writer-director Peter Chelsom with a little writing help from Maria von Heland and Tinker Lindsay. Of course, the film gets a lot of help from the delightful Simon Pegg who makes Hector’s malaise or rather, defunct contentment, tangible.
The quest for happiness in, um, Happiness is one we all no doubt pondered at least once in our life, if not once a day depending on your situation. Hector’s plight is one that is instantly relatable. He has a job that he’s good at, but one he’s also become complacent in. The same goes for his relationship. He and Clara are good together, content with being live-in lovers. Her career and Hector’s reservations have kept them in this sort of secure rut. That’s what makes Hector’s decision to reach out to the world for answers so earth-shattering, at least in the world of Hector and Clara.
Happiness does little to show how Clara deals with Hector’s odyssey; mainly because it’s Hector’s story to tell. We see Hector learn a wealth of life lessons, good and bad which he jots in the little leatherbound notebook Clara hid in his bag as a gift. This notebook and his observations serve as visual segues between the different scenes. These transitions are quite inventive, and add a measure of fun to even situations which are not as fun for Hector.
For all Hector’s experiences, I expected a mind-awakening, heart-wrenching revelation to take place. Unfortunately, I found the end result to be less revelatory and more sappy. I pondered my reaction a while after the film ended, wondering if I also needed to go on a journey to connect with true happiness and thus better understand the story placed before me. In the end, I discovered the following:
1) The armchair travel involved in Hector’s pursuit is splendid.
2) The joy, nervousness, sadness, and fear Hector experiences from all the new (and old) people and places is very entertaining.
3) The first reaction is usually the correct one.
I.e. the end result of all the spectacular locations and Hector’s reactions is underwhelming and clichéd. Visiting England, China, Africa, and Los Angeles with Simon Pegg as your guide may be the kind of trip you’ve been wanting to take and far be it from me to stop you, but fair warning, it is not the sort of excursion I’d recommend to everyone.