BOTTOM LINE: “Seven Pounds” has a very moving and heart-felt story at its core, helped by some glowing visuals and subtly effective performances by Will Smith and the rest of the cast. However, the film is let down by a frustratingly unclear direction that does not draw a complete picture of exactly what is going on which, if it had been, would have gone a long way to make the movie hit its touching and dramatic moments far more effectively.
THE GOOD: Will Smith shows yet again that he is capable of taking on the big dramas, and in “Seven Pounds”, he gets to personify the tragedy that is at the heart of this movie. He plays Ben Thomas, a man with a dark secret who is searching for seven people he can personally help to alter their unfortunate circumstances so he can make up for his own personal tragedy which he caused. The film moves along at a gentle pace with moving images and dialogue, particularly in the developing relationship between Ben and Emily Posa (Rosario Dawson) whom he begins to fall in love with. The strongest aspect of this film is the idea of giving something of yourself so that another will benefit. In the final scenes when the characters who have been helped by Ben realise what he has done for them, particularly Emily, the film hits some very strong dramatic notes and it would be the hardest cynic not to be touched by them. Will Smith is strong in the lead role of Ben Thomas, exhibiting a remorsefulness and tragedy in his eyes throughout the film that makes you consistently wonder what did this man endure to motivate him to give up his body and life to seven deserving strangers. Given the Hollywood backing to this film, it’s unusual to see that this film more closely resembles the structure and tone of an art house film rather than a studio film. In some respects, this makes for some more unusual moments, particularly with the use of the box jellyfish that Ben takes with him everywhere in a portable aquarium tank or the unusual relationship that develops between Emily and Ben. At its core, “Seven Pounds” has a very moving and heart-felt story dealing with life, giving and the human spirit.
THE BAD: The film is structured in a way to make Ben a mysterious character. We are never really exactly sure why or what he is doing, and although this works very well at the outset, the manner in which information about his personal tragedy unfolds, and his subsequent motivation behind his actions, is so frustratingly presented as the film progresses that it robs the film of any emotional connection to the audience. We are only given glimpses of Ben’s tragic mistake which caused the deaths of seven people, and even when we are given glimpses, they are not presented in the most clear fashion and are hurried through without strong execution. Having to think in a film is fine, but to be thinking too much to the point where you cannot get invested in the film itself is a mistake, especially in this case with a film that has a very tragic, touching story at its core. Even in the end, we’re not given all the details of all of Ben’s actions throughout the film (some of which are big plot points), leaving you wondering exactly what he did with some of the more minor characters, as opposed to being touched by what he did and emotionally invested in his character and the journey he takes. Another way to put it is that you can surmise after the film has concluded what has happened, but the experience of watching the film does not give you that sense of involvement in what is happening because you are too busy trying to work out why things are happening the way they are. Given that this is the backbone of the film, it’s a major negative working against an otherwise touching piece of work.
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Todd Murphy is a staff reviewer at the film/DVD review web site, http://www.allaboutmovies.net – for all the latest reviews on the newest releases.