Scene 21 – Hector and The Search for Happiness

So in 2013, we the audiences were treated to The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which saw Ben Stiller undertake a world-traversing voyage to understand the meaning of life…which is apparently a big deal. This time around sees Simon Pegg trying to get in touch with his happy-self, as weird as that sounds… in Hector and the Search for Happiness.

Based on French psychiatrist François Lelord’s best-selling novel of the same name, and directed by Peter Chelsom, Simon Pegg plays our dissatisfied protagonist Hector; a quirky psychiatrist who realises his methods aren’t really helping his patients, and so embarks on a trip around the world, reaching destinations such as Shanghai and The Himalayas,  in a bid to discover the secret of happiness….ps. its cake, lots and lots of cake…

Chelsom does well to capture the energy of the various locales, and if nothing else the aesthetics within the film are mostly impressive, all the more so when you consider the tight budget…especially in comparison to Walter Mitty. As for the film’s relatable messages, the bulk of them hit home, though the heavy-handed manner in which their executed can leave much to be desired. Sadly, it’s not the only problem, with an unfocused  screenplay. This is exemplified in the final act; Hector’s ultimate realization is extremely sudden to say the  least and feels like it comes completely out of nowhere.

Pegg is known more for his comedy chops than his dramatic acting, but here the focus is on the latter. Of course, as an actor Pegg proves up to the task in the emotional moments, but even for an actor as good as Pegg he cannot always imbue Hector with likability, as written our protagonist is too immature and self-indulgent to inspire much empathy. A prime example of Hector’s less than endearing decision-making comes when he cheats on his girlfriend days after departing for his voyage….cue every Beyonce song!

A supporting cast that includes Stellan Skarsgård, Christopher Plummer and Toni Collette is always going to class up proceedings, and they are all enjoyable enough in their roles, but there is little cohesive power between their characters’ musings on happiness. Again, like in the instances with Pegg, it isn’t down to the actors faults more so that of the screenplay.

So just like your older sibling…It’s not as profound as it thinks it is, and the screenplay disappoints more than it impresses, but Hector and the Search for Happiness is a harmless, solidly performed romp. Those pursuing true happiness need not apply, but those content with mild entertainment should be satisfied.


Scene 10 – Glassland

As an avid reader of my blog would know I am a keen advocator of all things Irish film related…well the good stuff at least. This weeks movie is no exception with the newly released Glassland. Glassland sees the return of Gerard Barrett for his second feature, featuring solid performances from both Jack Reynor and Toni Collette as a dysfunctional mother and son living in a lower-class area of Dublin. Tearing their world apart together; the pair go back and forth between a romanticised version of mother and son and a fragilely delicate woman taken over by an illness she cannot control and a carer.

The powerful opening of the film tells the audience exactly what they are in for; John (Reynor) wakes, wanders the house looking to see if his mother, Jean (Collette) is home, adds water to a  near empty bottle of milk so that he can have breakfast before going about his job as a taxi driver. When he returns, his mother still not home so he goes to bed. He wakes up the next morning to find her in her own vomit, and rushing her to A&E because she isn’t waking up…

The doctor explains, after a some pretty harrowing scenes that she is slowly killing herself with her drinking, and will need a liver transplant if she continues. It isn’t until the following morning, where John has brought his mother home and tucked her into bed, that the audience really see the full destructive power of what is going on in their household…

Jean wakes in search of bottles of alcohol, which John has previously gotten rid of, and she destroys everything in her path to find it. She tears apart their kitchen, throwing dishes violently to the ground as well as screaming in an almighty rage as John films the whole episode to show her later on….Now I know we are just finished with Oscar season, but for this scene alone I would give Collette for this year regardless of what comes out in the next year….it is that believable. 

John then goes back to his bedroom before Jean, who has calmed down now, comes to see him. He asks who is going to replace the plates and Jean shrugs her shoulders in a naive, childlike way… he precedes to tell her; “ He will wake up, work his arse off all day just to bring a little money home so he can replace the plates so that they will have something to eat from”…seriously heavy stuff. And this is all within the first 15 minutes of the film!!!….things can only get better right?!

So throughout the rest of the film John goes about trying to save his mother and in another striking and forceful scene, whilst sitting in his taxi, John screams that this woman he is now living with is not his mother. She has gone somewhere else and he doesn’t like the person she has become. It’s an incredible and interesting juxtaposition to the scene earlier where she screams about being left alone. It seems that as though it takes a moment of loud madness for the pair to get through to one another. It also shows a heartbreakingly-bleak side to John, who spends most the film trying to look after his mum but at this point, as it seems he is all but ready to give up on her and leave her to die. When he learns that the only other option left for her is to go into a rehab facility, he must both finding the money but also getting her to admit herself….it’s like being stuck between a rock and a the rock!

Alongside this emotional and evocative story are several side story lines, all of which add to the intensity and claustrophobia of this brilliant captivating drama. Jean has another son, Kit (Harry Nagle), who was born with down syndrome and currently lives in a home nearby. He is celebrating his 18 birthday and the only thing in the world he wants, is the spend time with his mum but Jean has no intention of seeing her son…. She explains why to John during their most intimate scene…but I won’t spoil it here. Here answer makes you immediately question, does this make her a bad mother? But Barrett brilliantly written script shows, there is so much more than meets the eye….

John’s friend, Shane (Will Poulter) also has his own issues. He fathered a son after a one night stand and now the mother won’t let him see his child despite paying child support each month. His frustrations are furthered by his relationship with his own mother, who seems quite overbearing as only an Irish Mammy can be.…hilariously so at some points. Shane is rude and disrespectful to his mother, which plays cleverly against John’s own relationship with his mother.

Glassland is yet another example of the excellent, powerful, intense and revelatory cinema coming from Irish cinema. Both Reynor and Collette are simply incredible, with two of the most powerful performances of the year….and the year is only beginning. Truly, their performance are incredible. I wouldnt have been the biggest Raynor fan, seeing him in What Richard Did..and not thinking that much of him in the role…it wasn’t bad…but just didn’t grab me.  The chemistry between the both of them is undeniable. For the main story alone, Glassland is a careful exploration of addition and love, but it also highlights Barrett as a writer/director star to watch out for…