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United Kingdom/Germany/Canada/South Africa 2014
Directed by
Peter Chelsom
114 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
0.5 stars

Hector And The Search For Happiness

Synopsis: A psychiatrist (Simon Pegg) takes a sabbatical and goes in search of the secret of happiness.

A few years ago, at the height of the New Age/self-help craze, there appeared a number of films such as The Secret and Being In Heaven that were promotional videos masquerading as cinema. Although in this instance based on a novel, "Le voyage d'Hector ou la recherche de bonheur", by François Lelord, Hector and the Search for Happiness is that sort of thing, one that fails to honour its medium and as a result whose message appears so platitudinous as to leave one slack-jawed in bafflement.  The glibly comforting Eat, Pray, Love in which Julia Roberts' character undertakes a similar globe-trotting self-searching journey as Hector, and Ben Stiller’s genial but forgettable, similarly-themed The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty are masterpieces compared to this.

The film opens sort of OK-ishly, setting up the scenario of Hector and Clara (Rosamund Pike) a DINKS couple living an upscale but barren, borderline OCD, life in central London (cue lots of touristic shots of the Thames and the London skyline). Psychiatrist Hector has a mid-life crisis and decides to go on his titular journey. His first port of call is China. Why, we don't know. He takes along a diary in which he draws and makes notes which get transposed to the screen as animated truisms such a “Happiness is being loved for who you are”.  China (which amounts to Shanghai, cue lots of touristic footage) doesn’t pan out so, of course, he goes to Tibet and after a brief stint with a sage monk and some prayer flags, heads off to Africa (yes, the entire continent), then, Los Angeles, to meet up with an old girlfriend (Toni Collette). Conveniently, all these locations have Skype so his relationship with Clara continues apace, albeit downhill. After a couple of traumatic experiences which teach him to appreciate his cosy existence, he goes back to London, Clara and his job, a new man. End of film.

Nothing about Hector and the Search for Happiness convinces. Dramatically it is two-dimensional, plotwise it is superficial, thematically it is truistic (unable to stick to the title theme we get treated to such itemised bromides as “Listening is loving”), co-writer Chelsom’s directing is gauche (the climactic Skype session with Pegg and Pike bawling their love for each other is particularly awful), and the charmless Pegg is miscast (Hugh Grant might have been able to raise this kind of fol-de-rol to a just passable level). What is good is the cast which includes, aside from those already mentioned, Jean Reno, Stellan Skarsgård and Christopher Plummer but why any of them are involved, unless they are members of some Scientology-like cult and Lelord’s novel is its Bible, is a mystery. Frankly, however, it’s a question that, like the film itself, is just not worth worrying about.




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