I’m going to say right at the start that if you haven’t seen the film seven pounds you should stop reading, go watch the film and come back and read. I know i have a generic spoiler warning on the site, but really, this post is epically spoilery if you haven’t seen the film. Another warning – when you watch, be prepared for crying, lots of crying. In a good way of course, this is one of those great cathartic stories. Have a box of tissues to hand.
Right, now we have got that out of the way…..
Spending some time in the company of Gabriel and Rodrigo and their different reactions to Grace and their different understandings of redemption put the story of Seven Pounds firmly in my mind. This is because the whole story is essentially a treatise on Redemption, but in a way that both reinforces and challenges our human tendency for independence and the resistance of the need to rely on others.
The idea that underlies the story is one of “payback”, of exchanging a good deed for a bad mistake – the basic premise of the Eastern philosophy of Karma. It’s the idea that ‘Redemption’ is indeed required for our mistakes – but that somehow through good deeds we can achieve that redemption ourselves.
The Seven Pounds of the title refers to the pound of flesh demanded by Shylock as recompense in “The Merchant of Venice” (hence the Venice quote that forms the title of today’s post). And it’s an apt title. Apt because our “hero” Tim/Ben Thomas attempts to repay a mistake through a literal deliverance of seven pounds of flesh. Having caused the death of seven people in a car accident (by carelessly texting whilst driving – TAKE NOTE people!!), one of which is his fiancee, Tim consciously sets out to balance the scales of Justice/the universe by donating organs to those who need them. It seemed to me that it was guilt more than anything that drove him to this attempt at Redemption and he is almost possessed by the task of finding “worthy” people to benefit from his sacrifice. He even rejects one of the potential candidates – a Residential Care Home manager that it turns out is abusing the elderly residents of the home. And so finding the seven people who he deems worthy he donates a lung lobe, a kidney, part of his liver, bone marrow, his beach front home and finally dies in order to donate his heart and eyes. And so it ends.
Ah, but of course is it ever really that simple? The audience knows from the opening that Tim is going to die, so there is this inexorable feeling of inevitability like being on a roller coaster that you can’t stop, but desperately want to. And there, in the desperation, the grief, the anger at himself – there we find the true redemption – the redemption born of Love. For in searching for a “good person” he finds something more – a person willing to Love him. A person he is (momentarily) willing to continue living for. And his love for her cannot be confined to dying for her – he is compelled by his love to not only give her life, but to ensure it is a full one by repairing a rare printing press she owns.
The changed man we see at the end of the story, a man in love and loved by another, is the very picture of redemption – and it is the love of another person which has redeemed him, which has changed him and given him “life in its fulness” free from the guilt and anger that has driven him for so long. Oh but here now is the heart-wrenching moment. *Gulp*. Because he finally has a reason to live, to embrace life, to love and be loved, his journey is over – except it isn’t. Because if he does not die, she will not live. She needs a new heart and is unlikely to get a matching donor – and of course Tim matches her (it was part of his research). The true tragedy stares patiently at us as we know that in this moment of genuine redemption he must still follow the path he started us all on 2 hours before, a path that ends in death, in true sacrifice – one motivated now by love, not guilt – and in lives saved and changed. I told you there would be tears….