Hector is a British psychiatrist, a doctor who treats patients with mental challenges. He divides himself between private practice, meeting the needs of the rich whose problems he finds to be quite superficial, and a mental health hospital where his patients are faced with more dire issues. Hector lives with his girlfriend Clara who works at a job creating names for new drugs. Like many of us living the modern life, Hector reaches a breaking point where he begins to question whether it is actually possible to be truly happy. He sets out on a global quest in search of the answer, purportedly to better help his patients find happiness yet knowing on another level that it’s his own happiness he is pursuing. Despite being a psychiatrist, Hector has yet to learn that he needs to help himself first and that happiness comes from within. These become some of the lessons he learns along the way.
The movie is a bit slow in the beginning, but once Hector begins his travels, the pace picks up. This is a movie whose point is solely character development. There is no strong plot. For some, this is a deathblow for a movie, as indicated by the very mixed reviews Hector and the Search for Happiness received, but for me, it’s often the sign of a movie that will captivate my mind. I was intrigued by Hector’s discoveries along his journeys, and I enjoyed most of his pursuit of happiness.
As he travels the world, Hector meets many people and asks them what they think happiness is. He learns both from their words and the experiences he shares with them. Some of these statements are easily summarized such as “Avoiding unhappiness is not the road to happiness.” Others aren’t as easy to encompass in words. The deep soul level beauty of many of the people that Hector meets comes through loud and clear in his journey, and Hector is astute enough to learn from all they teach him.
I would rate this a five star film except for the ending. Without spoiling it completely, I can only say that I felt the film took the cop-out Hollywood "happily ever after" solution rather than pursuing what reality would have dictated. People who go on a transformation journey in life, whether literal or symbolic, and experience radical changes in their worldview can’t usually return to the lives they were living before. Most often these people change jobs, romantic partners, living locations, and more as they realize what they had been pursuing in life is not what makes them truly happy. While I feel Hector did find some of the answers in his search for happiness, I felt the film’s creators failed to implement those changes in a realistic way. Despite the ending, the rest of the film is well-worth watching especially if one is on a quest for happiness in one’s own life.
© 2015 Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D., Green Heart Guidance, LLC