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Saturday, March 23 , 2019, 7:10 pm | Partly Cloudy 61º


Cinema in Focus: ‘Seven Pounds’

The quest to provide good deeds meets an unexpected obstacle in love.

3 Stars — Challenging

Intrigue is the primary ingredient of Gabriele Muccino’s Seven Pounds. If you intend to see this film, we encourage you to stop reading this review until after you’ve experienced this classic study of grief complicated with guilt and regret.

Presented more as an experience than a story, we walk through the complicated grief of “Ben” Thomas (Will Smith). Although we do not realize the thinking that is driving his behaviors until the end of the film, it is clear that Ben is a troubled man. Explaining that God created the world in seven days but he shattered his world in seven seconds, his story unfolds as he chooses seven “good” people to help.

The complications that arise when grief is mixed with guilt are common themes in literature and film. In this tale written by Grant Nieporte, Shakespeare’s expression of a “pound of flesh” as payment for a debt is referenced as Ben creates a plan whereby he can literally give a “pound of flesh” to seven deserving people as a way to pay for his guilt. That this is lawful but irrational and even immoral is what causes it to fit Shakespeare’s original definition.

What is lacking in Ben’s life is someone who can help heal his grief instead of enable it. His lifelong best friend, Dan (Barry Pepper), is appalled at what Ben is asking of him, but he has no strength to get him the help he needs. Instead, he knuckles under the iron will of Ben’s dysfunction. If Ben had a pastor or faith community who could have helped him face both his grief and his guilt, healing would have been available. Instead he, and most of the people in this tale, seem exceptionally isolated.

The complication intensified when, in the year after the tragedy that shattered Ben’s life, his brother (Michael Ealy) got lung cancer and needed a transplant. Ben gave him one of his lungs. This ability to help his brother relieved him and so Ben decided to give half his liver to Holly Apelgren (Judyann Elder). He then gave a kidney to a dialysis patient and bone marrow to a cancer-ridden child. But his last two payments of his eyes and his heart would require the ultimate sacrifice.

Using his brother’s IRS authority to discover private information about possible candidates, Ben wants to make sure the people he is helping are “good people.” This definition is never explained and the people themselves cannot understand his thinking. Wanting to lay down his life only for a good person, Ben becomes close to Emily Posa (Rosario Dawson), whose rare blood type and congenital heart failure combine in a person he can uniquely help. What he did not count on was falling in love with her.

We won’t tell you how he solves the dilemma, but the tension is obvious. Seven Pounds presents a solution to the complications of grief that is logical, physical and wrong. Realizing our need for moral guidance outside of our own often twisted thinking and accepting loving support through life’s tragedies is the value of this cinematic experience.


» If you were Ben’s brother or best friend, what would you have said to him? Do you think his brother, the real IRS agent, knew his full plan?

» Ben’s willingness to lay down his life for a “good” person is noted in the words of the Bible when it says: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8) Would you give your life for a “good” person? Would you give your life for a “bad” person? Why or why not?

» When we do something wrong, we often feel as though we could never pay for our guilt. In Christian faith, it is this sense that we can never repay and that God made the payment for us and extends to us his grace that we call the “gospel” or “good news.” Have you ever experienced a guilt that you could not get rid of? What did you do?

Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church on the Mesa. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.

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