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Movie Review: Seven Pounds starring Will Smith

30 December 2008 13 Comments
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Seven Pounds Movie Review

Seven Pounds - Will Smith

Seven Pounds - Will Smith

Starring: Will Smith, Woody Harrison, Rosario Dawson
Director: Gabriele Muccino (Pursuit of Happiness)
Length: 2hr 3Min
Released: December 19, 2008
Rated: PG-13

“If you are like most you will have one of two reactions, either leaving with your face covered with tears, or shaking your head.”

Seven Pounds stars Will Smith as IRS agent Ben Thomas. It’s a movie that is mysterious throughout keeping the viewer slightly out of the loop wondering what is going on. It is an emotional journey intended to slowly reveal the plot through subtle hints. Seven Pounds is a very slow paced film, only bearable because of Will Smith’s acting prowess. It is pretty clear that Ben, played by Will Smith, is more than he seems as he actively seeks to carefully analyze then help each person he meets.

The story unfolds as Ben makes visits to various people with different needs. Flashing his IRS badge he asks them both financial related questions as well as personal ones. He seems to be searching for something. As he is helping one of these strangers, the guy asks Ben “Why Me?” and Ben says “Because you’re a good person, even when you think no one is looking.” So he seems to be searching for “good people” to help. Why? It is very clear that Ben has a lot of emotional baggage as Seven Pounds is glittered with flashbacks which at first seem to be in the present. He is held captive by some sort of guilt or sad memory.

Overall the movie was well made, but as the quote above says (taken by a comment by user reviewer), you are either going to leave the theater crying or shaking your head. I happen to be the latter, despite the fact I am known to be very “emotional” when it comes to emphasizing with characters. Mainly because very early on in the movie it became crystal clear what the ending was going to be. It came too fast and too early. But then again I am the analyzer type that figures out plots pretty quickly to begin with. But what made me shake my head was not the plot, but the controversy that is the ending… it is definitely worth discussing from many different levels, especially from a moral standpoint.

** beware plot spoilers start here **

Journey to Self Redemption… or not
Many other viewers were very touched and loved Seven Pounds. I could definitely see why it would be considered a “tear-jerker” being that it is a journey of spiritual redemption where every tear-jerking stops were pulled to draw in the emotions of the viewer. However, the area worth discussing is the ending. There is no way of discussing the moral points here without ruining some of the plot so proceed at your discretion.

**last warning – spoiler ahead**.

Ben is clearly driven to care for people, not out of love, but out of guilt for the deaths he had caused from a past accident. It is a journey to self-redemption. Throughout the movie he is miserable, constantly haunted by his past. He cuts off his relationships, leaves his brother constantly worried and wondering where he is as he only focuses on trying to redeem his own guilt and ultimately he sacrifices his own life to help others. To be explicit, he commits suicide in order to help those he has deemed to be “good people” by donating his organs and in essence pay for his past.

There is so much to discuss here.

Was it really an honorable thing for him to sacrifice so much to make his wrongs right? Is that even possible? Does doing good, take away the wrong?

Motivated by Guilt or Love? Self or Others?
He is living his life to help people in order to fight away his guilt. He is out to find good people who need are in need of dire help. Sounds reasonable enough perhaps even honorable, and the movie does glorify his actions by making his acts seem noble and almost as if this was his last option. If you cant bear with the guilt and can’t live on, might as well do something good as you go. By the end of the movie, you sympathize with Ben and feel like he had to do this and that it was a noble thing he did.

However amidst all the feelings and emotions, you forget You forget that he completely deserted his loving brother who suffers throughout the ordeal. He also pulls in his childhood friend to make sure his organs are donated accordingly, never quite reciprocating his friends love for him and leaving him to suffer in the guilt of the final suicide. He also leaves many behind that love him, mourning and in sorrow. There is no followup showing the dramatic emotional consquences of his death on the people around him and the people who love him. Anyone who has been connected to a suicide knows the immense guilt and sorrow involved by all parties related to the person who commits suicide. Should I have known? Should I have seen the signs? Could I have done something? His brother may ask, could I have done something? His friend could ask, should I have stopped him? His lover may ask, did he do it because of me?

Ultimately suicide is shown to be a very, very selfish act. But all the emotions and the “selfless good” he produced in his death will overshadow this simple truth.

In his quest to appease his own guilt, he leaves a string of hurt people. He also was motivated by guilt for most of the movie with the lone exception of the wanting to help Emily Posa, played by Rasario Dawson, who he falls in love with. (By the way, I found it ridiculous he goes from the initial “Hi” to “What if we had children” within a very short time period). A little too convenient of a setup for another tear jerking moment.

People would argue that the movie glamorizes suicide. I don’t think it necessarily glamorizes it, but it does distorts our perceptions. You end up feeling like what he did was “ok” in the sense that it brought some good, that it maybe was partially out of “love”. It masks all the pains and hurts he caused and the selfish motivations that started it all. Let’s be clear. Suicide is the most selfish act there is. To commit suicide is to take your life because you can’t deal with some sort of pain or struggle despite the fact that it leaves so much pain and guilt for those who are left behind.

Questions
Can one redeem himself through good works?
Can one do enough good works to cover the guilt of doing something wrong?
How can one forgive oneself?
Can suicide be justified?
Was Ben’s act a selfless or selfish act?
How would you have felt if you were Ben’s brother? As Emily?

Feel free to agree or disagree. Leave your thoughts below. Rational clean discussions only.

Other Notes:
The speed in which the Ben and Emily fall in love is a bit too hollywood. Not good in the way it will impact our perception of love and relationships. They meet, they date, they sleep with each other, talk about having children, then he dies for her. Is this really how love works?

The main characters do have a love scene, though for Hollywood’s standards, it was done conservatively without nudity or unnecessarily long. Though it speaks volumes about how much Hollywood has succumbed to our sexualized culture that a scene like this would be called conservative.

Beware of violent flashbacks of a car accident.

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Powerful Impact of Media on Children
Teen Kills Self Live on Justin.tv

Again feel free to leave thoughts below.

13 Comments »

  • Danny said:

    I was also the latter, shaking my head as I walked out. Although I enjoyed the movie mostly due to the fact that it was able to get into the lives of several different characters and make you able to empathize with them. I felt connected to each of the people who were suffering or going through a particular struggle, whether that was due to good directing/acting or just my general emotional response is up for debate, but I like the movie because it was able to really put a focus on the need for so much work to be done in our particular lives, but I did not like the overall message at the end, which must be why I left shaking my head.

  • Vanessa said:

    I watched the movie with my teenage sisters and I definitely have to say that I walked out of the theater shaking my head. Ben is driven so much by guilt that he desperately attempts to rid his guilt by helping other people. Even though it may seem he is doing ‘good’ his final act of ‘love’ or ‘good’ is covered by the selfish act of suicide. To some degree, the movie conveys a message that suicide can be ‘justified’ if done for a good cause. As an older sister, I was concerned about the emotional effects this movie could potentially have on teenagers.

    As I discussed the movie with my sisters they came to the very conclusion I dreaded, Ben had done something good to help people. They completely missed the point that Ben had committed suicide because everything he had been doing up o that point was driven by guilt. If my sisters are thinking this, I am sure there are thousands of others who might end at that same conclusion….and I honestly think this is a dangerous place to be.

  • Media Influence said:

    Thanks for the responses!

    I definitely agree that Seven Pounds does highlight how much need is out there. All it took was for one man to look around and he was easily able to find so many people in need. No one can argue that the good Ben did in his life was not for the better (despite his questionable motives).

    Whenever we judge a particular message from the media, we can obvious banter back and forth and talk about whether or not we are giving it too much scrutiny or if the subtle messages truly does impact our way of thinking but…

    It is one thing to simply make a comment or judge something by feeling. That is easy. “That Rated R movie has ridiculous violence and a unwarranted sex scene, but hey it won’t affect me that much. What is the big deal?” However, it is a completely another thing to think about one’s own younger sister or brother or perhaps one’s own son and daughter as Vanessa does above.

    Would you let your child watch that same movie? Do you really think your child would not be impacted if they kept watching some things? Do you want your child to be “not affected” and “deadened” do it like you have? Suddenly it is personal. Suddenly you are more conservative and more careful. I personally think this is the best way to judge a piece of media and it’s message. Truth comes out when we know it may affect the ones we love.

  • Erma said:

    All I want to know if this is a true story?

  • Erma said:

    Is this movie a true story?

  • Media Influence said:

    The movie makes no reference that this is a true story, so I believe it is a fictional story.

    Having said that, let’s hope that this movie doesn’t give people ideas and cause it to become a reality. That would be really tragic for all those involved.

    thanks for your comments!

  • Colin said:

    I watched this movie last night and it was AMAZING!!!! Such an awesome awesome movie. I can’t believe that there are people not happy with this movie or talking about “controversy” That is insane! If this movie is controversial then so is 90% of all of the movies out there. How many movies out there are based on revenge? “You killed my best friend or family member, so by the end of the movie, I’m going to kill you” Pretty much every 2nd movie is like that. Murder is okay if you’re killing a murderer. 7 pounds is no more controversial than any of those movies based on revenge. Anyone that argues is wrong. You only feel that way, because your emotions are more wrapped up because of the amazing acting and story line that is 7 pounds . This is an AMAZING movie! And an inspiring one at that. It makes you want to be a better person. You can take more good from this film than most others. I love it, and recommend it for all.

  • Tian Yan said:

    I watched the movie yesterday night alone and I was quite moved by the story. However, I share the same sentiments about how Ben Thomas (or Tim as we later found out) had to end his life and how adamant he was in “following his plan”.

    I think his act of suicide was an unwise decision on his part. Very early on I saw through the fact that he’s burning all bridges to do what gives him purpose and meaning to his life again. In his mind, it’s about redemption, having taken 7 lives in the accident, that he repay it with “1 pound of flesh” to each, therefore letting go of the burden in the end. Hence 7 pounds (Remember the Merchant of Venice reference here).

    So there, my stance is very clear on his idea of suicide to save others. Was it selfish? Yes. But that’s because everything we do in life is selfish no matter how noble it seems. Mother Theresa was a selfish person. She devoted her life to please god. Nothing wrong there, just to make a point that we are all driven according to what serves us. There’s a lot of selfishness in selflessness if you think about it.

    I’m more interested about the evolution of his decision when he embarked on this journey of his. In the beginning, he can be very mechanical on his evaluation of his benefactors. Like he was just getting by with completing his final mission. At the same time, he answers “I’m really good” when asked how he’s been doing. There’s delusion in all of that. Only when he’s alone could you tell how miserable he feels. But when he’s with other people and being of some kind of service, it distracts him long enough to live his life normally.

    The scene where he ran back to the hospital was defining. When he asked the doctor if Emily’s condition is any more optimistic than the day before, he was checking the possibility of him being alive for her to be together with. His motivations for his suicide is somewhat changed, however the urgency to commit was greater than ever with his brother’s presence.

    It’s more sad than touching that Tim had to choose this faith. It’s not like he’s terminally ill, he had a choice. And I actually felt… “What a waste. All that intellect, and drive, and talent. He could have spent the rest of his life serving others and learning to live with himself.”

    Do I feel others could have saved him? Like his best friend who played along? Or his brother? Or Emily herself? Yes. However, they are all dealing with demons of their own, and even if they want Tim to live, he wasn’t letting them into the truth.

    Finally, there is this important question that one should consider… Putting intentions and the morality of the suicide aside, what would the consequence be if the suicide failed?

    e.g. What if Tim’s heart was damaged during the suicide? What if he had a turn of heart last minute? Or what if he survived the suicide?

    If he survived the suicide, Emily gets no heart, Ezra gets no eyes, and Ben would have to take care of his brother for the rest of his life.

    I would love to hear more thought provoking questions from others. Thanks.

    Warmly,
    – Tian Yan

    P.S. At the end of the film when Emily’s heart was pounding in the background, I actually felt the pain pounding in my chest. The effect was visceral and I felt it. Nice touch there.

  • Jrich said:

    i just watched this movie yesterday and i really want to know who were the 7 people he helped out if u watched the movie and thought about the number 7 the whole movie… i just need to make sure that i am correct about the people ben(will smith) helpped out

  • real said:

    There’s good info here. I did a search on the topic and found most people will agree with your blog. Keep up the good work mate!

  • mike said:

    i m quite stunned that most people have this mindset that what Ben did was selfish. to me its the most ‘selfless’ thing he could have done, when obviously he couldn’t live with the fact that he killed 7 people because he was txting and driving. I disagree with you comment that suicide is the most ‘selfish act there is’ how about murder?, what about the victims families, and the pain they feel, these people didn’t want to die they didn’t have a choice. Ben had a choice & made up his own mind about his own life & ultimatly saves 7 lives.

  • Dave Snyder said:

    I think the sex scene was much longer than it needed to be. Not the type of scene you want your 13-year old daughter seeing.

  • REBA said:

    I’ve been having this movie for a while now, but I was first introduced to it a year ago. I didn’t hear much about the movie when it first came out. Maybe it was because I had my own personal agenda to deal with at the time.

    I love Will Smith in everything character he protray. I love this movie. When I realized that Ben was actually Tim I was like what, okay. I understood what Tim was trying to do. Tim was responsible for the death of seven people because he was texting on his cell phone. That is someithing I believe everyone fail to realize. Tim was on his cell phone texting. This is something that has become a big problem in the world today. Tim believed that because he took the lives of seven people he would give seven people a chance to live. Tim did go to the doctor and new exactly what he was doing. Physically, Time was in excellent health and shape. He had already given his brother Ben an organ and Holly too.

    Tim believed that what he was doing was right. It was an admiral thing he did but spiritually it was wrong. This is how he made his attonement for the seven people that died.

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