Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Seven Pounds

Review by Patrick Hodges

How would you feel if you were the sole survivor of a terrible auto accident that claimed the lives of seven people, including your wife, while escaping with only minor injuries?  Heartbroken?  And what if you were the one directly responsible for causing that accident?

Well, I imagine you might be wracked with guilt, and very probably suicidal.  But let’s say you were a person of high moral character and a fair degree of nobility; the act of suicide would seem selfish, wouldn’t it?  No, the only way to end your own pain and still have your death mean something would be to make sure that you helped as many people as you could before you went.

Such is the case for Ben Thomas (Will Smith), who has decided to end it all - and no, that’s not a spoiler, you learn this in the very first scene of the film - but he has decided to help seven people before taking his own life; in effect, giving back “seven pounds” of his own flesh to atone for the seven lives that he took. 

So he begins his quest to find those to whom he will donate some of his vital organs and worldly possessions, with the help of his attorney and childhood friend (Barry Pepper), including the mother of two small children being victimized by a brutal boyfriend and a blind piano player (Woody Harrelson).  But first and foremost on his list is a woman named Emily (Rosario Dawson), who has a rapidly-failing heart.  Using his connections as an IRS agent, he becomes heavily involved in her life.

The acting in Seven Pounds is stellar.  The soul-crushing pain that Ben feels in etched indelibly on Smith’s face throughout the film, even during his flimsy attempts to appear jovial or nonchalant.  That Smith can act very well is not a secret, having done so in previous films such as Six Degrees of Separation, Ali and The Pursuit of Happyness (whose director, Gabriele Muccino, also directed this film). 

But I am pleased to say that Smith’s performance was not the only noteworthy one.  Harrelson is brilliant in his brief role as the blind musician Ezra, and this is the best acting job Rosario Dawson has done in her career (by a country mile).  This was well-directed, extremely well-acted and well-written.

However, it is most assuredly not the kind of movie you want to see if you want a “fun night out”.  The pall of death and tragedy hangs like a black cloud over the screen for pretty much the entire film, which, at a running time of just over two hours, could probably have stood to be a little shorter.  This is really the kind of movie you see only if you appreciate serious, well-acted drama.

4 / 5 stars

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