Rosario Dawson and Will Smith star in Seven Pounds
Will Smith is always good, and in this tear-jerker, he and his co-stars, excel. However, the premise of the film is flawed, both ethically, spiritually, and as a story.
Seven Pounds is an unfortunate film.
Ben Thomas (Will Smith) seeks redemption; he blames himself for a car accident that killed his wife. So he whittles away at his life, giving portions of it away to different people he deems as deserving. He steals his brother’s IRS credentials to access information about people in need and then studies them to see if they are worthy of the gift he is about to give them: his bone marrow, his liver, kidney, eyes, his house, and ultimately, his heart – by killing himself.
The spiritual problem is that he plays God – not a metaphorical God or Christ-figure – but a God who deals life and death – his own. He does this out of depression and guilt, states of being that can lead people to do many things – ways of being that evoke our sympathy. He walks alone, so down on himself and hopeless, that it breaks our hearts. We will him to choose life. He does, but he takes his own, to give life to others.
As a film this is problematic – it doesn’t work. It is depressing and misguided to seem to celebrate this kind of self-sacrifice as if it were a feel-good story, as if he made the right choice. We can weep, but it is for his despair and hubris, under the guise of atonement, that drew my tears.
Ethically for everyone, and morally for believers, life is precious from conception to death, but not at our own hands. We belong to God. There is religious symbolism in the film and hints at the scriptures, but despair and the desire for absolution drive “Ben” to this extreme and ill-conceived sacrifice that seems more instep with nihilism than inspiration.
I am sorry the filmmakers think this is an appealing holiday story that can inspire as did last year’s The Pursiut of Happyness (same director); appalling is more like it.
Another issue is playing God with people’s lives. To reach in and practially make decisions for other people, is to misunderstand the ethical and existential balance between freedom and responsibility.
No matter what, the ends never justify the means.
What were the filmmakers thinking?
(I suggest that you visit the USCCB site for a more thorough analysis http://www.usccb.org/movies/s/sevenpounds.shtml)
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