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Netflix Journal: Seven Pounds

The cryptic trailer gave me the impression that Ben Thomas, the character played by Will Smith, wields some kind of super natural power in the film Seven Pounds. For years all I had to go on was that Oprah likes it, my sister said it's weird, and NPR said it's depressing with a poor performance by Will Smith. As it turns out, most of these comments are accurate. However, this doesn't quite explain what Seven Pounds is or how it does it goes about doing it. So let's look a little closer. 

Listen to this odd and wonderful song from the film as you read. 

  • Overall, Seven Pounds is unique like the first half of Will Smith's other movie "I Am Legend." Ben Thomas, like Robert Neville, is a lonely character with a purpose. His past is a mystery which slowly unfolds through a controlled release of details. The vast majority of background information and exposition is communicated visually through the settings, scenarios, and most importantly Ben's facial expressions. I've never seen this range of Will Smith's expressions before. It seems that he has expanded his repertoire by combining a unique sad face with other expressions. Sad smiling. Sad worried. Sad glad. Ben's internal state is shown clearly in his face.
  • The film follows Ben around through a consistent flow of time while only jumping back every now an then into his past. At first it was a bit difficult to tell how everything pieced together with all of the jumpy cuts. But the only confusion I experienced with the film was momentary. 
  • My favorite part of the film is the characters. More mundane than magnificent. More banal than breathtaking. And more ordinary than outrageous. All the characters are familiar like everyday people. Everyone in one way or another tries to live their lives. Some are held back by disease, others disabilities, and one by her abusive husband. The main character holds himself back through his extreme dedication to attempt to right a grave wrong he committed. 
  • Ben's story about the space dragons is particularly moving because of how pathetic it was. Dialog like this is a perfect example of not over writing a scene.   
  • Ezra Turner, the blind man, is one example of how all the scenes, ideas, and details of the film come together in the end. He's introduced in the beginning of the film, shows up in the middle, and returns in the end. Not a lot of time is spent on this character, yet his story is clear. Stories like Ezra's are simple yet used elegantly as an addition to the main story of Ben and Emily. 
  • Ben prepares for his death throughout the whole film. From the opening scene to the "lying in the tub" scene, we see how death conscious Ben is. In fact, no event or plot element jumps out and surprises you in the film. Like our own mysterious and inevitable deaths, we see the events in Seven Pounds coming even when we don't know when or how exactly. And as I've said before, it's death that frames life and brings context to what it means to live.
  • I thought the writer(s) found a very cool way for Ben to commit suicide without using a gun.
  • Diction like being a "good person" to living life "abundantly" hints at a religious/spiritual angle to the film.  
  • I love how some of the themes are very subtle and understated. Ben carries the drive and power to drastically improve other's circumstances. In essence, this means Ben can fix or take care of people. And as a MIT graduate, his ability to mend and repair extends to inanimate objects as well. Fixing Emily's old printing machine is not only touching and intimate in the private reserved way we all collect something that means everything to us, but the action and the plot go hand in hand in a sort of double transformation. Ben opens his heart after treating himself badly for so long, and Emily opens her heart and life to Ben. Shortly afterwards the even more subtle theme of "rejection" is presented through the idea of biologically rejecting Ben's donated heart. If this happened, both lives would end. Despite Ben's greatest sacrifice, fixing Emily's life is partially out of his hands. 

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