Theme: A Pound of Flesh
Insights: Seven Pounds tries to do for suicide what Million Dollar Baby did for euthanasia - validate it, ennoble it and make it palatable. The movie does this in a very deceptive and manipulative way.
The movie begins with suicide. This fact cannot be forgotten as one's feelings are carried along by the developing story.
"Not only is suicide a sin; it is the sin. It is the ultimate and absolute evil; the refusal to take an interest in existence; the refusal to take the oath of loyalty to life. The man who kills a man kills a man. The man who kills himself kills all men; as far a he is concerned, he wipes out the world."1
The title of the film comes from the expression "a pound of flesh", made famous by a line in Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice". The meaning is something which is owed that is ruthlessly required to be paid back. In terms of the movie, the lead character, Ben Thomas, is responsible for the deaths of seven people, so he is ruthlessly requiring a pound of his own flesh for each one of the car crash victims.
The great deception of the film is that while Ben is extracting pounds of his own flesh, he is doing it to "save others", thus making himself some sort of a noble martyr. The motive here is self atonement. He is trying to find some way out of his torment, which is vividly captured in his recurrent flash backs.
In carrying out his plan to "pay" for his crime with is own flesh, he takes his brother's identity as an IRS agent and forces his best friend into carrying out the legal details of his plan after his death. Does he consider what he will leave them to live with after he is gone?
This is the story of self redemption not God's redemption. God is nowhere to be found in this story. Ben Thomas decides who is good and who is not (he can determine that in a five minute interview), who is worthy to receive a gift of life and who is not. That is the ugly truth of this film, yet because it is disguised as a sacrifice not a suicide, people leave the film thinking these were noble selfless acts.
The real truth (vs. the reel truth) is that a person who does not receive God's forgiveness for their sin and therefore cannot forgive themselves, dies one piece at a time....bit by bit by bit.
The Hollywood Ending
So many people are talking about the movie's ending - how powerful it is, how original, how unlike Hollywood. Granted, to watch a human being created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) commit suicide is disturbingly powerful, but the movie ending is really very "Hollywood". Ben Thomas' heart and eyes are received by their new hosts without any complications or rejections. The recipients of the the heart and eyes even meet and have some sort of a pleasant connection because of their relationship to the donor, as if to say, "And they lived happily ever after".
The film is reductionism at its worst.