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USA 2008
Directed by
Gabriele Muccino
123 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bruce Paterson
3.5 stars

Seven Pounds

Synopsis: The enigmatic, emotional narrative of Ben (Will Smith), who for reasons that very slowly become apparent, is so driven by a deep psychological pain that he sets himself a final mission to make a substantial difference through personal sacrifice to the lives of seven people. When he meets Emily (Rosario Dawson), a beautiful woman with a heart condition, the mission becomes complicated.

While I dislike introducing the authorial voice into film reviews, dear readers, this is another in a series of films where my critical appraisal demands a contextual confession. It seems my lot in life is increasingly to like deeply unpopular films. As Seven Pounds is the kind of film that is difficult to comprehensively appraise without spoiling the purpose of its effect on the audience, I shall try to explain why I liked it by beating around the bush.

Increasingly, even interesting, worthwhile films spark a critical feeding frenzy because they don’t fit the mold. Or they don’t come up to preconceived conceptions of what they could have, or should have been. Or they provoke assertive, fairly self-evidently false critical responses. While this is an example drawn from an average film and an average review, I recently read that Jim Carey in Yes Man had lost his ability to be funny. Yet there are so many similarities between his comic characters in all his films that he is either funny to various degrees in all of them, or none of them. Take your pick.

Looking at more sophisticated examples of film-making, a number of really interesting films took a critical drubbing last year. Just a few examples are Angel, The Happening and The Fountain. Once the first reviews spilled a little blood in the water, the sharks came to play. And yes, whilst there are some loose threads protruding from such films that can be pulled out, does their presence necessarily unravel the effort and the courage of the filmmakers in their efforts to tackle some interesting convictions and ideas? I don’t think they do, at least not to the extent that the films aren’t worth seeing.

A common thread in these kinds of films is that they were essentially emotional rather than rational narratives. They may have unlikely premises that demand some credulity. It is fair enough to acknowledge that they walk a fairly thin line as to whether their story and presentation will resonate or repel. But it’s important to acknowledge both possibilities. What some will find mawkish manipulation, others will find dramatic purpose or at least a sense of emotional truth.

Seven Pounds may be unlikely (although I wouldn’t say illogical), it may be enigmatic, and it may be emotional. But Will Smith’s character is a compelling mystery. The purpose of his mission at least in the first half of the film will be relatively unclear, other than to those gifted for anticipating ‘twists’. Yet his character is obviously driven by a deep and abiding pain. His edgy, discomforting performance rather brilliantly makes it unclear whether his interventions in other people’s lives is driven by hate or love (and a hate/love of what or who?). The second half of the film is more an unfolding story of his motivations and the complications introduced by his relationship with Emily (Rosario Dawson), with Dawson giving a strong portrayal of the vulnerabilities of her character. While I have no idea how the performances and film stack up against In Pursuit of Happyness, the 2006 film also featuring Smith and by the same director, I also don’t care. I like Seven Pounds for what it is. And if you like the sound of what I’m saying, I think you will too.

FYI: Seven Pounds presents the subject of suicide in a way that some viewers may find disturbing. If so, please visit, call Suicide Helpline Victoria on 1300 651 251, or Lifeline on 131 114.




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