Seven Pounds may be the most spiritual picture of the holiday season; this story of redemption is a gift for moviegoers.
Who knew that Will Smith could deliver the year's most unexpected and profoundly moving love story? He plays Ben, a man with a deep, dark secret that leads him help seven complete strangers, each with their own particular set of circumstances. Constructed like a jigsaw puzzle, we slowly get clues to the traumatic events that cause Ben to contact these people and change their lives in ways they never could have anticipated. What he doesn't expect is to fall in love with one of them -- Emily Posa (Rosario Dawson), a cardiac patient whose heart may be weak but is clearly strong enough to make a difference in the way Ben looks at things. It's this relationship that becomes the center of Grant Nieporte's compelling screenplay, but as it continues it's obvious there is more to what Ben is doing, a mystery not revealed until the final moments and one you will not easily forget.
Will Smith is at his best. He may be the world's No. 1 movie star at the moment, but he's continually proving himself to be a brilliant actor as well. Reteaming with director Gabriele Muccino, who led him to a Best Actor Oscar nomination in The Pursuit of Happyness, Smith once again finds his dramatic mojo in the role of a man whose life has been shattered by something so profoundly affecting that he reaches out to strangers in an effort to redeem himself. You will be hard-pressed to find the loveable Will Smith persona anywhere within this character. Dawson also has a career best as the spunky and courageous Emily, a role that could have been sloppily sentimentalized and maudlin. She's a revelation, delivering a flawless and luminous performance. And best among the various recipients of Ben's kindness is Woody Harrelson as a blind man he encounters. Also quite good is Barry Pepper as Ben's childhood friend, who is the only other person "in" on Ben's master plan, helping him to achieve his goal. He rips your heart out when he gets the call from Ben, who says, "It's time."
Gabriele Muccino puts it all out there. He is an unapologetically emotional director and some will probably find fault with his style, but as the Italian filmmaker proved in Pursuit of Happyness he knows exactly what he's doing and where he's taking the story. He's most successful here in building suspense and an air of mystery around Smith's character and then bringing it all home in a whopper of a final act. Clearly, story, acting and gut-level feeling are the three things that drive Muccino, and his distinctive stamp and European approach is evident throughout. Most of all, he has given Smith and Dawson a real showcase, finding the meat of a story that's one from the heart and good for the soul.
Hollywood.com rated this film 3 1/2 stars.