Hector (Simon Pegg) is a funny duck, as they say. The eccentric neat freak is lucky to have a gorgeous girlfriend like Clara (Rosamund Pike) who’s willing to put up with his odd requests, such as arranging everything in perfect order, from his socks to his sandwiches. He’s even more fortunate to have a thriving psychiatric practice, given the barely-contained contempt he routinely exhibits for the folks lying on his couch.
A moment of truth arrives the day one of them (Veronica Ferres) finally summons up the courage to tell him to his face that he’s transparent, inauthentic, and just going through the motions. Conceding that he’s become so jaded that he isn’t helping his equally-miserable patients anymore, Hector decides to embark solo on a globe-spanning, spiritual quest for the fulfillment that has somehow escaped him.
After all, how could he not have joy, when surrounded by all the trappings of success? Hector’s plans have Clara concerned about whether the relationship is on shaky ground, since she’s been reluctant to start a family and she’s also aware that he has an ex (Toni Collette) in the U.S. he still cares about.
Unfolding like the alpha male answer to “Eat Pray Love” (2010), “Hector and the Search for Happiness” is an alternately introspective and action-oriented travelogue played mostly for laughs. Simon Pegg exhibits an endlessly-endearing naïvete as the peripatetic protagonist, whether misreading the flirtations of a prostitute (Ming Zhao) in China or taking a while to realize that his cab has been carjacked by the underlings of an African crime boss (Akin Omotoso).
Such perils notwithstanding, our intrepid hero persists in posing his pressing question “What is happiness?” at each port-of-call as he circumnavigates the globe. Taking copious notes on a writing pad, he records the answers he receives, like “Being loved for who you are,” “Answering your calling,” and “Feeling completely alive.”
Eventually, Hector experiences that elusive “Eureka!” epiphany he needs so dearly, which allows him to rush home revitalized to Clara and a career and clients who might not be so annoying after all. A feel-good meditation on the meaning of life, guaranteed to leave you counting your many blessings as you walk up the aisle.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity and brief nudity
In English, French and German with subtitles
Running time: 114 minutes
Distributor: Relativity Media
To see a trailer for “Hector and the Search for Happiness,” visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_2mgTYdth0w