The Pursuit Of Happyness (12A)



Drama (2006)
117mins US

Starring: Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Thandie Newton, Brian Howe
Director: Gabriele Muccino
Writer(s): Steve Conrad
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

When his plans to support his family by selling portable x-ray machines fall into ruin, Chris Gardner faces the collapse of everything he holds dear. His wife Linda leaves him and their young son Christopher. With no money, Chris and his boy are soon forced onto the streets, living in shelters, trying to survive from one day to the next. A glimmer of hope presents itself when Chris enrols in an unpaid stockbroker internship, but he must keep his homeless status secret until the completion of the course.

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LondonNet Film Review
The Pursuit of Happyness

Cinema audiences love an underdog, an everyman or woman, who falls victim to the system and risks everything to pursue their dreams when admitting defeat would be the easier option...

Will Smith and Jaden Smith in Pursuit of Happyness. Sony Pictures ReleaseingThe more misery the lead character suffers, the better - it will make their eventual triumph against adversity that much sweeter.

The Pursuit Of Happyness slavishly adheres to the template, heaping so much misery and anguish upon its heroic central figure that his torment is almost unbearable. Were it not for the fact that Gabriele Muccino's rites of passage drama is "inspired by a true story," you could almost laugh in disbelief as one soul-destroying misfortune is heaped upon the next.

The title of the picture is clearly ironic - without the feelgood finale, this is one of the most depressing journeys of self-discovery imaginable.

San Francisco's Bay Area in early 1981 provides the setting to all of the emotional travails. When his plans to support his family by selling expensive, portable bone density scanners come to nought, dreamer Chris Gardner (Will Smith) faces the collapse of everything he holds dear.

His long-suffering wife Linda (Thandie Newton) leaves him and their five-year-old son Christopher (Jaden Smith), fed up with her husband's promises of a brighter future. With no money, Chris and his boy are soon forced onto the streets, living in shelters and public restrooms, trying to survive from one day to the next.

Will Smith and Jaden Smith in Pursuit of Happyness. Sony Pictures ReleaseingA glimmer of hope presents itself when Chris enrols in an unpaid internship at a top-flight stock brokerage firm, with the promise of a well-paid job at the end of the course for the most promising candidate. Chris must keep his homeless status secret from his new boss Jay Twistle (Brian Howe) until the completion of the internship.

However, his working hours sometimes thwart his attempts to queue for a place in the local shelter with Christopher. As one of the 20 hopefuls, Chris's chances of success are slim to say the least, except this is a true story, so we can relax from the start, knowing that there is a happy ever after to sweeten the bitter pill of his suffering.

Will Smith delivers an exceptionally strong lead performance and the decision to cast his son Jaden in support reaps rewards, especially in the scenes where Chris struggles to remain mentally strong for his boy. "Don't let anybody tell you you can't do something. Even me," Chris commands his son, in one of the screenplay's rousing speeches, which shamelessly tug the heartstrings. "You gotta dream, you gotta protect it... You want something? Go get it. Period."

Newton's wife is portrayed without a scrap of sympathy, deserting her family and the film early on, while director Muccini is content to let his leading man do all the work, driving the narrative through its steep emotional peaks and troughs.

- Heather Von Bourne


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