In Hector and the search for Happiness, Simon Pegg plays Hector - a psychiatrist living in perfect monotony who sets off around the world on a quest for happiness. Unsurprisingly, the conclusion is that he finds out that it was right in front of him all along. Predictable and forgettable, the film does nevertheless make you think about the subject of happiness.
Hector has an unshakeable sense that there must be more to life than this. A feeling that his life means something and he hasn’t found that thing yet. He sets off out into the world to experience everything it has to offer. The Bible speaks of a world created for us to experience and enjoy, a world created for our happiness. Like Hector, we sense that this should be true, even when we’re not experiencing it.
Hector has everything but still feels like he’s not living life. He becomes frustrated that his patients feel hopeless when, actually, they’ve got everything. The film puts its finger right on a pressing issue in our society. We’ve got everything we want, so why aren’t we happy.
Unfortunately, the film’s conclusion is in itself a representation of the problem that it identifies. Despite a few interesting and/or cliched observations about happiness along the way, he ends up ‘finding happiness’ in romantic love - which is hardly a groundbreaking ending for a date-night movie. We are left with a statement from a Tibetan monk that we have an obligation to be happy. This may look good on a sunset meme on Facebook but is actually a crushing weight on the depressed, essentially telling them to stop whingeing.
Hector is ‘redeemed’ by a new perspective on the things that he already has in his life. He starts off on a fairly selfish quest for happiness but ends up learning that shared experiences and helping others contributes to happiness. He is ‘saved’ by coming to terms with his previously repressed emotional life. Again, this looks for the conclusion in the very thing that has been previously identified as the problem. Basically, we are told to think better. Can’t do it? Well then, think harder? The solution must be inside you.
Jesus offers an external solution to the problems we have with happiness.
Jesus offers lasting joy - the ability to enjoy things without needing them to fulfil life. We’ve got stuff but can’t enjoy it because we are looking to the stuff itself to provide everything we need in life. The bible paints a picture of a new creation where we will live in a world of experiences and joy without treating that world or those experiences as little gods. We will be free to enjoy creation without putting pressure on things that can’t handle it because our ultimate source of joy, Jesus, is with us. Then then the search for happiness will be over.