Lowdown: A Londoner who, on paper, has it all realises his life is empty and takes an unplanned excursion around the world.
One of the more insightful facts about humanity is to do with the commercial success of self-help branded books. Especially when considering so many of them are as far from evidence based as possible while so many others are essentially saying the same thing. Hector and the Search for Happiness is a movie capitalising on this point, a movie that claims to take its viewers on a journey to seek how to bring happiness into our lives. While I doubt a commercial movie production can ever deliver such a payload, the fact it stars Simon Pegg and Rosamund Pike was pretty much all I needed to know to get me to watch it.
What I got in return for my time was an easy to watch, cliché romantic comedy of sorts. Hector (Pegg) is a London psychiatrist running his own practice and living at a luxurious apartment by the Thames with his girlfriend Clara. The two have it all: high paying jobs, an address to call home that 99% of you readers could never afford, and the status that comes bundled with those. Hector, in particular, leads the most comfortable life ever: Clara takes care of absolutely everything for him (to an extent that goes much further than your Jewish mother stereotype).
Is that enough? Upon realising he cannot help some of his clients, it dawns on Hector his is an empty life. It occurs to him that he might be ticking all the boxes, but a happy person he isn’t. Perhaps this is because of him missing out on his old love (Toni Collette), who now resides in Los Angeles? There’s only one way to find out.
Hector decides to close up shop and head, alone, into an unplanned world tour adventure – starting off at China and going where the wind blows. Thus starts a voyage with three main stops, China, Africa and Los Angeles. At each of these stops Hector will meet interesting people (e.g., Stellan Skarsgård as your high flying neoliberal CEO type, Jean Reno as a drug lord, or Christopher Plummer as a cutting edge brain scientist), experience the unusual and unorthodox (often to the extreme), but also experience the horrible and the life threatening.
It’s all rather too tacky and nicely wrapped up. After gathering all sorts of insight into what it is that makes us happy (things like having the ability to have sexual relationships with more than one woman), Hector does seem to narrow things down and arrive at a conclusion. Alas, if you ask me, his conclusion is just as worthwhile as the bulk of the self-help book I’ve mentioned earlier; if Hector was to really ask me, I would have told him happiness comes through exploration, learning and interacting with the people you like and who like you.
That said, there is nothing bad with this journey we take alongside Hector. It’s pretty entertaining, and there is something to be learnt along the way about stepping outside the world we put ourselves in.
Overall: Hector and the Search for Happiness is as nice as a film can be. If light entertainment in the company of fine actors is what you’re after, you won’t do wrong with Hector. 3 to 3.5 happy crabs out of 5.