On Peter Chelsom’s Hector And The Search For Happiness (2014) TIFF

Happiness. Don’t we all need more happiness in our lives?  If so, where do we find it? Hector and the Search For Happiness is a film that wants us to find out. Hector is a psychiatrist who finds that his humdrum unchanging life is missing something. This has made it really hard for him to empathize with his patients and treat them. Hector decides to go on a world adventure to find out what makes people happy so that he can find what makes him happy and hopefully help his patients along the way.The film stars Simon Pegg as Hector. I have been a fan of Pegg since the tv series Spaced (1999). His performance as Hector is a step away from his usual work. With this more intricate character he is able show a broader range.
Even though Pegg is able to deliver something different to viewers the character is a bloated version of an actual person who’s often questionable in his actions. He leaves on this adventure/research experiment without even consulting his girlfriend of several years, Clara, played by Rosamund Pike. He tells her one day at a cafe that he’s leaving and she is expected to accept it. At first, she seems opposed to it but then gives in far too quickly.Then as soon as Hector leaves and his adventure begins, he is so willing to cheat on her in the pursuit of happiness. How can you tell your partner you are going away for an indeterminate amount of time because something is missing in your life, while asking them to be there when you get back, and then don’t give a second thought about sleeping with someone else the first chance you get? Come on Hector!
The film is a feel good rom-com that sadly misses the mark. It is disturbing for me to see a film that is both sexist in its portrial of women with the character of Clara and glorifies the happiness found in other cultures almost filing them into neat stereotypes. Hector takes off on his journey around the world asking everyone he encounters what happiness is to them. Through his encounters he begins to realize that he must internally ask this question because only he can define what happiness is to him. Big surprise!  You don’t have to be spiritual, rich, stable or anything else to be happy. Happiness occurs when we are  simply going about our lives. Those moments are found in the the mundane or in the times we actually allow ourselves to take in the moment. While I liked Pegg as Hector, and the film was amusing, you won’t learn anything you haven’t read in a self help book or already knew yourself.
Editor’s note: We are rather not found of (and are rather critical of) ethnic stereotypes used as magical tropes to further a film protagonist’s development. In fact, we are rather tired of it. Fully agreed with Jennifer here.
Telegraph film critic Robbie Collin on twitter put it a different way for this film (which we found hilarious):

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