before_dawn’s review published on Letterboxd:
The Pursuit of Happyness is a truly endearing, honest and moving film. With remarkable performances from Will Smith and his son, this true life story of overcoming even the most difficult challenges for those we love has been done justice. Set in the San Francisco of the 1980's, the film portrays the struggle of Chris Gardner, a persistent but remarkably unlucky working class father as he tries to take care of his family.
This is not the stereotypical "underdog" story. Yes, he has to overcome many obstacles to triumph in the end. However, what makes this story different is that the main character has so much more to lose. It is not just his shot at the championship game or the chance at making the team. It is his son and his entire life that is at stake. His course of action will determine wether he becomes a successful stock broker and is thus able to provide stability for his son; or wether they are lost in the shadows as one more homeless family in SF.
Former mayor of San Francisco Art Agnos once said that most San Franciscans live just a few paychecks away from homelessness. This movie exemplifies that persistent fear of so many working class Americans better that anything. It brings to life the daily hardships of merely having a bed to sleep on each night.
The title brings several thoughts to mind. The declaration of independence as well as much of the political philosophy that brought to life this country came from the enlightenment and thinkers such as Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau. But Thomas Jefferson had the tact to replace the word "property" as an essential right in Locke's Second Treatise of Government for the "pursuit of happiness". Why "pursuit" wondered Chris Gardner, exhausted by the cycle of poverty in which he is caught. Perhaps because we can never really achieve it, but simply spend our lives in its quest, he reckons. One of the underlying revelations of the movie is how critical the fulfillment of those basic rights, including the "pursuit of happiness"or in this case "property", is to their lives. Nevertheless, they are capable of holding together and giving magic to even the most difficult moments.
With a strikingly beautiful and original story, warm and often breathtaking performances and few no weaknesses to speak of, this movie deserves a high rating.