Sunday, January 03, 2010

Seven Pounds

Seven Pounds (2008; dir. Gabriele Muccino) is a film of woe that becomes more so as it moves forward. The plot centers on a man who is preparing to make amends for a terrible event for which he feels responsible. A major part of the interest of the film derives from the fact that we don’t know what the horrible event was, or what the main character is up to, until random details revealed through flashbacks and small bits of information allow us to figure things out. This is a maudlin film. It really has virtually nothing to say. Its point is to stir up our emotions, to make us sad and sorry for the main character and the mistakes he has made, to tempt us into admiring the act of noble self-sacrifice he is contriving to perform. He’s seeking redemption, of course, and everyone can appreciate that need. Will Smith is predictably effective as the man who hides his secret grief and methodically investigates the lives and characters of the individuals whom he plans to help in one way or the other. In fact, Smith’s acting, his way of inhabiting the main character, is the most interesting aspect of the film. But that’s not enough to make the film worthwhile. Redemption is not an automatic guarantee simply because one makes a sacrifice. The generosity Smith’s character is expressing, the noble gestures he is making—do they come from a true desire for repentance (the film seems to work in those terms—sin, penance, repentance) or do they simply come of despair over the loved one he has lost? Despair does not, theology makes clear, lead to salvation.

No comments: