Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * *
Cast: Simon Pegg, Rosamund Pike, Toni Collette, Stellan Skarsgård, Jean Reno, Christopher Plummer, Tracy Ann Oberman, Jakob Davies, Ming Zhao, Chris Gauthier, Deborah Rosan, Veronica Ferres, Togo Igawa, Gabrielle Rose, Chad Willett, Barry Atsma, Rebecca Davis, Raj Lal, Marcus Shakesheff, Manny Jacinto, Tessa Jubber, Aiden Longworth, Dean Paul Gibson, Anthony Oseyemi, Sivan Raphaely, Jordan Schartner, Aaron Le, Hannah Longworth.
What does happiness mean to you? To some it’s the perpetual chase of addiction, be it money, the lure of the lucre and the collection of cash, for some it could be to party and fill their bed with as many people as possible, to gain the fleeting sensation that they might perceive to be happiness attained. To help the sick, to right an injustice, to hear their favourite actor portray Hamlet and delivery the perfect, angry, insightful but ultimately doomed and mournful soliloquy of all time. It could be something just as simple as to sit back, the radio play their favourite song and watch as the world by passes them, forgetting that for just for a while they cease to exist in anybody else’s thoughts bar their own.
For some though it is the art of listening, to not interrupt a story, a tale of woe, a moment in which the person who feels the most useless, the most inadequate and most lonely can reach out, have their story told with no fear of ridicule or shame and be allowed to feel human. Everybody has a voice in the end.
For Hector, an unassailable Simon Pegg and Clara, Rosamund Pike continuing to show just what an exceptional actor she is, life is good. Everything is as it should be, everything is tidy and straight and O.K. but happiness, true chaotic, disordered and colourful happiness eludes them, it eludes Hector. The inner child of a man who has become a shadow of himself as a psychiatrist, the boy who loved Tin Tin as a boy and whose imagination has become stale and grounded, has hit the point in life where to find what happiness means to other people means leaving the stale behind.
Hector and the Search for Happiness is one of those quiet films that comes seemingly out of nowhere and catches you unawares. The returning duo of Mr Pegg and Ms Pike, almost the British version of Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart in the way their chemistry shines across the screen, catch the idea of unsettled human behaviour, that gnawing sensation that as a species we were meant for more than the straight laced unforgiving aspect of the 9 to 5 and ordered dull life and more for the anarchic disorganisation that comes with imagination and the lust for exploration, perfectly.
Whether with Rosamund Pike, in which he excels, or with the likes of Toni Collette, the ever consummate Stellan Skarsgård, Jean Reno or Christopher Plummer, Simon Pegg brings home to the cinema audience the desperation of a man going through that time in his life when questions need to asked with such wonderful abandon that whether he is facing death at the hands of gang lord in Africa, understanding why Chinese monks have Skype or failing to grasp the situation in why a beautiful Chinese woman, played by the glorious Ming Zhao, would pay him any attention, he is just a dream to watch.
The film might not appeal to those under a certain age, which is a huge shame, for one day, if they make that connection with life now, they will truly understand that just because you reach a certain age; it doesn’t mean that you are dead inside.
Happiness is what you pursue, to listen though, to take in the story of another soul, is surely a goal to chase.
Ian D. Hall