One man’s journey to redeem himself from a deadly secret
By Sneha May Francis
A thrilling encounter of how one tragic incident in the life of IRA agent Tim Thomas, essayed by the versatile Will Smith, leaves him scattered and disoriented. Motivating him to search for a deeper, more meaningful answer. And forcing him to set out to change the lives of seven strangers.
He picks random people, all good at heart and in dire need of help, and chalks out ways to put an end to their misery. He shortlists his brother Ben (Michael Ealy), social worker Holly (Judyann Elder), hockey coach George (Bill Smitrovich), little Nicholas (Quintin Kelley) and Connie Tepos (Elpidia Carrillo), who suffers at the hands of an abused lover. He ends his search with a meat salesman Ezra Turner (Woody Harrelson) and printer Emily Posa (Rosario Dawson). They are all good people, each with a bitter story to tell. And Thomas walks into their lives and makes drastic changes that leaves them empowered with the hope to live on.
The film travels with Thomas, through his search for the right beneficiaries. Once he finds a candidate, he trails them – watching and studying them closely – to reason their true worth. There’s an incident when he rejects a candidate because he find him ill-treating an aging lady who is under his care. He makes calculated donations, only to ensure that his recipients truly deserve it.
Though critics call this an emotional drama, Smith, who also takes on the role of producer, insists it’s a romantic film. Probably because of Thomas’ charming love story with one of his beneficiary, the lovely Posa. The film follows the two characters, painting a shade of hope in their lives. It’s during their interactions that we understand the intensity of this man’s turbulent past and how deeply injured he is. Despite her numerous attempts to learn about his past, he remains closed and non-committal. Their sweet love story makes us want to make it last. It’s heartening to watch Thomas go the extra mile to fix her antique card printer. But the more her health deteriorates, the more determined he is to help her.
The film’s title is borrowed from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, in which a debtor must pay a pound of flesh, and will explain Thomas’ journey even more clearly.
After essaying a strong character in The Pursuit of Happyness and playing havoc in Hancock, Smith continues to thrill with his striking yet controlled performance. Through the entire film, Smith sketches out a beautiful frame for Thomas. You soon begin to bond with him, his triumphs and emotions. This man’s life, in a way, makes us question our intentions, on whether we are true to our deeds and actions. Prodding us on how far we would go to correct our mistakes.
Towards the end of the film, Thomas is seen retiring to his motel room, where he keeps his boxed pet jelly fish. The end, ain’t for the weak hearted, and could hurt some people’s religious sentiments. But it works for the film – making a strong, subtle statement.
This griping tale will definitely leave us questioning the true essence of our existence.
(Published e+, Gulf News, January 29,2009 issue)