The world craves more happiness, more mirth, more zen but just exactly how do we attain it? In Peter Chelsom's delightful new movie, based on the global best-selling novel Hector and the Search for Happiness, Simon Pegg stars as a man on a quest for the answer.
Director Peter Chelsom, Simon Pegg and a star-studded, award-winning supporting cast, including Toni Collette, Rosamund Pike, Stellan Skarscard, Jean Reno, and Christopher Plummer, bring to life the search for happiness.
"Avoiding unhappiness is not the road to happiness, or listening is loving, or nostalgia is not what it used to be. I would hope there's a lot to take away," says director Chelsom.
Hector is a quirky London psychiatrist in search of happiness. "He lives a very structured normal life. He's charged with making other people happy and trying to solve their psychoses and neuroses, and he doesn't seem to be getting it right. All his patients seem to be miserable for no apparent reason. He decides to go on this mammoth quest, almost out of the blue, yet it's been bubbling up inside him almost since childhood," exclaims a passionate Pegg.
Hector's relationship with his girlfriend, Clara (Rosamund Pike), lacks adventure and like so many couples they have entered a phase where the relationship is not going anywhere, where it has become a deal: I won't rock the boat if you won't, a kind of co-dependence.
Hector is smothered by a stable job and bathed in general unhappiness. Then one afternoon, Hector decides that he wants to discover the meaning of happiness, and tells Clara that he must set forth immediately on his research quest.
Armed with his backpack, smartphone, notebook and pen he travels to the Orient and beyond. Each stop brings rich experiences, surreal adventures, and tremendous lessons as Hector meets kind, dangerous and happy people.
From Asia onto the spectacular South African grasslands, Hector visits his college friend, Dr. Michael (Barry Atsma), and befriends a druglord named Diego (Jean Reno), who cares more about his wife's happiness than his own.
When Hector's abducted by rebels, beaten and thrown into a rat-infested dungeon, he stares death in the face and finds his most powerful reason to live, to feel alive.
Hector's last stop on his epic journey is a visit in Los Angeles with his former college-flame Agnes (Emmy- and Golden Globe Award-winning Toni Collette). She's grounded, earthy, forthright, and sensitive and extreme pregnant. Agnes in many ways represents Hector's illusive sense of happiness. Much to his chagrin, he discovers that Agnes is very much in love with her husband and young family. Hector soon realizes that nostalgia isn't what it used to be and that it might be the same "tool bag" required for happiness as for love: the courage to embrace all the emotions. Happiness takes courage!
Agnes takes Hector to visit renowned professor Coreman (Academy Award winner Christopher Plummer) of Happiness Studies at Los Angeles University. "My instrumentation detects false and hidden emotions. My lab has discovered when depression is removed happiness doesn't necessarily grow," says a spritely Plummer.
Hector is intrigued. During his visit with professor Coreman he has a stunning epiphany: "Is life about the pursuit of happiness... or the happiness of pursuit?"
Hector celebrates happiness with Clara in their London flat. Photo credit: Relativity Studios
The tremendous music score by Dan Mangan with Jesse Zabot superbly complements the biggest message of the movie: happiness is a choice, it's up to you. So choose to go see Hector and the Search for Happiness.
I laughed, cried and thoroughly relished this joyous film, and I think you will too.
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