Hector and the Search for Happiness is an interesting and enjoyable film about one man’s journey around the world to find what makes for true happiness. A comedy-drama film from 2014, it is rated R for language and some brief nudity.
Simon Pegg (Hector) is a psychiatrist, and the narrator of the film. Rosamund Pike plays Clara, Hector’s girlfriend. You may remember her from the recent film Gone Girl. (If that is the only film you’ve seen her in, you may be surprised to know that she is British, and nailed that American accent for her role in Gone Girl.)
Hector leads quite a predictably ordered life, and begins to wonder about happiness. Is he or any of his patients truly happy? Will his patients ever find the key to happiness, and can he help them if he is similarly clueless about finding it for himself?
I really empathized with Hector, as I’ve been a counselor and I know how draining it can get listening to other peoples’ problems. In fact, that’s why after several years, I moved into administrative positions for my jobs. You can only hear so much without it beginning to affect you and your own happiness in life.
But, back to Hector. To figure out what is happiness, he treks across the planet, his journey of self-discovery taking him to three continents, and a variety of emotional encounters. Stellan Skarsgard (Edward) is one of the first strangers Hector meets, with surprising results.
Hector’s musings are shown to us through his drawings and the questions he poses in his journal. I enjoyed this aspect of the film. We are let in on the workings of Hector’s mind through the recording of his thoughts on happiness in his travel journal. He poses a question to people he encounters along the way: What makes you happy? He creates a list about happiness as revealed to him, and I enjoyed thinking about which ones I liked the best.
The film also features Christopher Plummer (Professor Coreman), who studies the effects of happiness on the brain, and enlists Hector to take part in one of his experiments. Toni Collette (Agnes) is one of Hector’s past loves.
Hector finds the humanity in people again, has a series of epiphanies about life, and experiences the growth he would want for his patients in himself. Grateful and in the present, Hector finds happiness in himself.
The film is very entertaining, and I applaud that director and writer took risks by having a narrator, which is looked on as not such a wise decision in order to have a successful movie. They also have Hector’s doodling in his journal come alive on the page and thus on the screen throughout the film. It was creative and effective in bringing this story to life (and contributes to our happiness as movie lovers).
John Lennon said, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” Hector might add that happiness can only happen when you’re truly alive.