The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
The moral of this story is simple and well-known, but presented with honesty and warmth by Italian filmmaker Gabriele Muccino and his two stars Will Smith and Jaden Smith - who revel in the presence of each other. Muccino approaches the film cleverly - he manages to make it detailed and meticulous, but constantly progressive. Make no mistake about it, The Pursuit of Happyness is a demanding film. Our protagonist encounters constant set-backs and uphill struggles. Still, the film always has a glimpse of hope in the horizon. There's always something that keeps us going, a little quest that lies ahead, something that makes us cling on to the promise. And this is exactly what motivates Chris Gardner - on our behalf.
At times, The Pursuit of Happyness grazes a sentimental overtone, but mostly it hits all the right notes. The key is first and foremost the brilliant acting by the lead duo. Will Smith gives arguably the best performance of his career. The devotion, determination and, ultimately, relief he is able to convey is breathtaking. By his side, we find what might be the greatest child actor talent since the early days of Elijah Wood. The effect of him acting against his own father shall remain undiscussed in this matter, but it certainly doesn't take away any of the appeal.
The Pursuit of Happyness is one of the best balanced movies of the year. It shows that a well-used, fundamentally American thematization like this can still work, given the right amount of human insight, and a delicate dose of joyous comedy. It has both quirkyness and simplicity, it combines slow, attentive segments with scenes of fast paced, hectic everyday life, and it knows better than most that the sweet won't taste so sweet without the sour. This is what makes the five last minutes of the movie fantastic.