This is a movie for anyone that has been ‘there’. If you’ve been there you’ll know exactly where I mean. Whether you’ve been to that dark and depressing place at some time of your life because of a lack of money, love, educational standing or career direction, you will appreciate the tale told with this film. Based on a true story, the film is steeped in the reality of ordinary problems which can destroy hope and sometimes tear families apart.
The Pursuit of Happyness is primarily a story of one man’s often courageous and sometimes foolhardy determination to pursue a happy life. The man in question is Chris Gardner (Will Smith), and he is struggling along with his wife Linda (played by an almost unrecognisable Thandie Newton) and their son Christopher (played by Will’s son, Jaden Smith).
We join the Gardner family facing a mounting pile of bills, working too hard for too little, and desperately trying to not lose hope. Financial pressures in particular though can get in the way of the best intentions and the family ties which are already strained threaten to give way completely. Clearly not happy with his place in the world, Gardner decides to take action and pursue a better life for himself and his family. Rather than accept a crummy job with little chance of providing properly for his family’s future, Chris aims for something better; he wants to be a broker.
With an ambitious goal in sight, Chris somehow finds the courage and determination to keep fighting for a better life after numerous setbacks. Picking himself up, dusting himself off and dealing with the battle scars that appear when life keeps throwing obstacles in your way, Chris endures. While money may not necessarily buy you happiness, it does allow people to take care of primary needs like shelter, food and clothing. When these primary needs are not met, humans suffer.
Will Smith brings an underlying strength and unaffected charm to the role of Chris Gardner, with his emotional responses always carefully weighted. This is not to say that he is a saint. Sometimes impatient, sometimes letting the bitterness of his situation flow to his son, and at times wavering on the edge of desperation, Chris is constantly faced with the reality of only having a few dollars to his name. Despite this he is often a calm presence in a world which brings him no end of chaos.
Changes of scene throughout the film very effectively highlight the gross inequities which exist in the world and contrast the widely different experiences of those that have money and those that don’t. It also presses the importance of not judging people from what appearances suggest as we can never really know what is truly going on in their lives.
Travelling along at a pleasant pace, this is a movie that will help you trust in yourself and accept that some dreams really are worth fighting for.