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Seven Pounds

December 12, 2015

SPA man is about to die. The rest of the film is flashbacks leading up to that moment.

One troubled man on a mission to give deserving individuals a new start. What drives him and how far will he go?

Themes: guilt, atonement, sacrifice, self-protection, healing, trust, forgiveness and self-forgiveness; guilt and redemption; healthcare for all.

The film depicts a man willing to make remarkable sacrifices for others – a theme that rubs sharply against the grain of our modern world. Ben’s assumption that benefactors should be those who ‘deserve’ help raises further questions. And the obvious parallels with the sacrificial life of Christ will challenge Christians about their own life-styles of self-sacrifice or self-protection.

The title owes its origin to Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice in which Antonio is required to pay ‘a pound of flesh’ to repay a debt.

Tim Thomas, while carelessly sending a text message while driving, veers across the centre line into oncoming traffic and causes a multi-car crash in which seven people die: six strangers and his fiancée, Sarah Jenson.

Two years later, in a bid for atonement, Tim sets out to save the lives of seven good people by donating his own vital organs, a process that will be completed after his planned suicide. A year after the crash, having quit his job as an aeronautical engineer, Tim donates a lung lobe to his brother Ben, an Internal Revenue Ser vice field agent. He steals his brother’s federal IRS identification badge and credentials, puts his picture over Ben’s, identifies himself by his brother’s name, and uses Ben’s privileges to check out the financial backgrounds of further potential candidates for his donations. In each case he “interviews” them first to determine if they are good people.

In one case, the director of a hospice nursing home facility, who had an unsuccessful bone marrow transplant, seeks a six-month extension on his back taxes. Tim is unsure of the man’s ethics, because he claims to be insolvent, yet drives a new BMW. To resolve the issue, Tim passionately asks a resident patient, an elderly bedridden woman, to tell him whether he is a “good man”, only to discover that the man is punishing the woman for refusing to take a new medication by not allowing the nurses to bathe her.

Six months later, Tim donates part of his liver to a Child Protective Services social worker named Holly. He then finds George, a junior hockey coach and donates a kidney to him. He then donates bone marrow to a young boy named Nicholas, opting to have no anesthesia during the procedure, an evident consequence of his desire for atonement. In each case he does not tell the people what his intentions are for his donations, despite being repeatedly asked.

Two weeks before he dies, he contacts Holly and asks if she knows anyone “in the system” who needs and deserves help but is too proud to ask for it. Holly suggests Connie Tepos, who lives with her two kids and an abusive boyfriend, but can’t afford to leave. When “Ben” arrives to “interview” her under the guise of dealing with the IRS, Connie is embarrassed and humiliated that he knows what’s been going on. She defends her boyfriend, is offended by Tim’s suggestion that she should leave with her kids, and kicks him out of her house. In the meantime, Tim moves out of his house and into a local motel, taking with him his pet box jellyfish—decidedly the most venomous creature on earth, with its sting causing death in three to five minutes. That night, after being beaten by her boyfriend again, Connie contacts Tim. He meets her, tells her not to be weak, and gives her the keys and directions to his beach house. She takes her two children and they move into the house. Then she reads a letter from Tim which includes the deed to the house, again giving no explanation, and asking for her to (1) respect his wishes, (2) not try to contact him, (3) not tell anyone how she got the house, and (4) “live life abundantly”.

Tim’s sixth candidate is Ezra Turner, a blind telemarketer for a meat company, who plays the piano. Tim called Ezra and harassed him at work weeks earlier, to see if he was quick to anger; when Ezra remains calm and humble through the abuse, Tim decides he is worthy.

Tim then contacts Emily Rosa, a wedding announcement/greeting card printer who has a congenital heart condition and rare blood type that has left her with only weeks to live. Tim “interviews” her at her home, again under the guise of an IRS investigation, and more or less stalks her at the hospital. But then he starts to spend time with her, walking her Great Dane called Duke, weeding her garden, and fixing her rare Heidelberg Windmill press. He visibly fights his affections for her, again seeking atonement for the death of his fiancée, but he slowly falls in love with her.

Ben finally tracks Tim down at Emily’s house, saying that he will return his IRS credentials. After a passionate sexual interlude with Emily, and with Ben waiting outside her house, Tim disappears out the back door, leaving her sleeping. He returns on foot to the motel, first stopping by the hospital to ask the doctor if there is any chance that Emily will improve. Discovering that she will likely die before a donated organ becomes available, he decides “it’s time”.

Tim then fills the motel bathtub with ice water to preserve his vital organs, calls 9-1-1 emergency and reports his own suicide, climbs into the tub, and releases his box jellyfish into the water with him. The jellyfish wraps its tentacles around his arm, causing a quick but excruciatingly painful death.

At the hospital, his best childhood friend Dan acts as executor of Tim’s living will to ensure that his organs are donated to Emily and Ezra. Ezra receives Tim’s corneas, which cure his blindness, and Emily receives his heart.

Afterward, Ben finds letters from Tim that he is to give to each person explaining why he did what he did. This leaves Emily heartbroken. Emily finds Ezra (now a school teacher) at his kid’s choir concert at a park and stops him as he passes by. Having never met before, Emily is fixated on Ezra’s eyes, knowing they belonged to Tim. Emily begins to break down, which clues Ezra in to who she is. When he says, “You must be Emily,” she breaks into tears and they share a heartfelt embrace out of mutual love and respect for Tim.

Ben gives Connie a note saying ‘My wish is that you will live life abundantly’.

An important difference between Ben’s sacrifice and Jesus’ is that Ben was driven by the guilt of a tragic mistake in his past, where Jesus was motivated by love.

We see statues of the Virgin Mary and the baby Jesus in a Catholic hospital. As the story starts, Ben intones, “In seven days, God created the world. In seven seconds, I shattered mine.”

The director admitted to MOVIEGUIDE® that his movie’s redemptive religious imagery is indeed symbolic of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. Also, Rosario Dawson said the movie is about the transformative, redemptive power of love. In fact, one could say that the movie is about the healing power of love. Thus, SEVEN POUNDS ultimately is redemptive, inspiring and life affirming, but bittersweet.

Seven Pounds has a few allusions to the number seven, the number of completion or perfection in the Bible. But not all the sevens in this film are positive ones. For example, while there are seven recipients of Thomas’s generosity of seven body parts (apparently weighing a total of seven pounds, hence the movie’s title1), there were seven people, including his own fiancée, who died in a car accident that Thomas carelessly caused. But in his pursuit of redemption, Thomas’s actions are far from perfect, with wrongdoings ranging from lying to impersonating a federal agent to the more profound: committing suicide.

Director Gabriele Muccino was attracted to the story because it tells of a mysterious personal journey that is, in fact, a true declaration of love. He feels it tells the story of a man consumed by remorse and the pain of having lost a loved one, who finds himself face-to-face with the one thing he expected the least, the opportunity to start again, to live a new life, and that the story is thought-provoking, bold, touching and full of emotion.

Woody Harrelson’s character is named Ezra, which in Hebrew means ‘help’ or ‘assistance’, hinting to the events at the end of the movie.

[first lines] 911 Operator: 911 emergency…

Ben Thomas: I need an ambulance.

911 Operator: I have you at 9212 West Third Street in Los Angeles.

Ben Thomas: That’s room number 2.

911 Operator: What’s the emergency?

Ben Thomas: There’s been a suicide.

911 Operator: Who’s the victim?

Ben Thomas: I am.

Ben Thomas: The first time I ever saw a box jellyfish, I was twelve. Our father took us to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I never forgot what he said… That it was the most deadly creature on earth. To me it was just the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

Ben Thomas: [From trailer] In seven days, God created the world. And in seven seconds, I shattered mine.

George Ristuccia: You know, Ben, I keep asking you this but why me?

Ben Thomas: Because you are a good man.

George Ristuccia: No, really.

Ben Thomas: Even when you don’t know that people are watching you.

Emily Posa: Do you wanna play a game?

Ben Thomas: What game?

Emily Posa: The “what if” game.

Ben Thomas: The “what if” game.

Emily Posa: What if… my pager goes off… and it’s a heart… and… it works? And my body doesn’t reject it? And… what if i have time?

Ben Thomas: [Long pause] What if? What if we have children? What if we got married?

Ben Thomas: I lied to you, I think about dying every day.

Larry: Hey, how much longer are you gonna stay in my hotel?

Ben Thomas: Motel.

Larry: How much longer?

Ben Thomas: Actually, I was planning on dying here.

Larry: Well, then you need to pay in advance.

Ben Thomas: “Unremarkable” would be an upgrade for me, I assure you.

Ben Thomas: [From trailer] I did something really bad once and I’m never gonna be the same!

Ben Thomas: [from trailer] It is within my power to drastically change his cirumstances, but I don’t want to give that man a gift he doesn’t deserve.

Emily Posa: [From trailer] Why do I get the feeling you’re doing me a really big favor?

Ben Thomas: Because I get the feeling that you really deserve it.

Dan: [Answering his phone] Hello?

Ben Thomas: [Ben on the other line] It’s time.

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