There's almost nothing I can say about Seven Pounds without it giving away almost everything about Seven Pounds. I can't even talk about its title. So consider this a significant spoiler warning.
Will Smith plays an IRS agent named Ben Thomas. Or at least you think he does. Ben goes door to door—and hospital to hospital—auditing people at the oddest times and in the oddest ways. He asks probing, personal questions no IRS agent has any business asking. He pokes around people's backyards—and hospital rooms—without invitations. He demands to know if they are "good" enough to deserve preferential treatment from the official tax collection agency of the U.S.A.
Stewart doesn't. But Emily does. (She's quite a bit cuter than Stewart, and she doesn't manipulate and harangue the elderly in the nursing home Stewart runs.) So by the power not exactly vested in Ben by the Internal Revenue Service, he grants reprieves and "changes the circumstances"—one way or another—of pretty much everyone he meets.
But Ben doesn't stop at financial rewards for good behavior. He's begun to give bigger gifts, too. Gifts that involve him seeking out the sick and infirm, then arranging for certain of his organs to be made available to them as a transplant. He donates bone marrow. He offers up a lung. And a kidney.
And now we're back to Emily, a woman who has a malfunctioning heart. Ben falls for Emily in the process of auditing her, and he starts to think more and more about her heart—the one she has and the one she needs.
He really does want to do something about that.
Up to a certain point—which I'll explore in more detail in my conclusion—Ben's altruism is inspiring. He cares much more for others than he does for himself. He gravitates to the needy like a dog to dinnertime. And speaking of dogs, Ben takes care of Emily's Great Dane when she gets sicker and has to be hospitalized.
Ben finds a family that's desperate for a change of scenery, and sets out to fulfill their every dream. The family is headed by a single mom who is being abused by her boyfriend. She's so afraid of him she won't call the cops, but she just might up and move away if she had the wherewithal to do so. Ben sacrificially provides that wherewithal, giving her his house, a car and money to start over.
All he wants from her in return is her promise to "live life abundantly." (Something he can't seem to manage for himself.)
Ben often tells those who are close to him that he loves them. He fixes things for Emily, and he weeds her yard.
Life and death and personal sacrifice are all tied tightly into spiritual ideas. But Seven Pounds keeps the core of these concepts at arm's length. At best—and that doesn't mean it's good—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."
Ben and Emily kiss passionately for a few long moments before they fully consummate their passion. Using quick cuts and obscure camera angles, the director shows them taking each other's clothes off and collapsing onto her bed. The camera does focus on the top of Emily's breast and Ben's stomach—both of which are scarred from operations.
While taunting a blind man (to see if he responds in a respectful and "slow-to-anger" way), Ben hurls accusations of virginity at him. There are references to one-night stands (in an oldies song sung by children) and would-be high school dalliances.
Various women wear dresses and tops that reveal cleavage and lots of leg. Ben wears only a towel after showering. Part of Emily's side is exposed while she bathes. A lingerie store at a mall backdrops one scene.
Furious with Stewart, Ben smacks the man's head into a window. Frustrated and overwhelmed, Ben throws a chair and a few other things around his office. Emily falls hard and smacks her head on paving stones. We see the bruised face of a woman who has been beaten.
A catastrophic car accident is shown. In slow motion, vehicles spin out, fly through the air, come apart at the seams and are generally destroyed. A woman is ejected and dies on impact.
Ben commits suicide by dumping a box jellyfish into the bathtub with him. It stings him repeatedly as he howls and writhes.
Crude or Profane Language
Two s-words. A handful of other swear words include "a--," "h---" and "b--ch." God's name is linked with "d--n" two or three times.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Wine appears on dinner tables.
Other Negative Elements
Totally committed to his "plan" and thus unconcerned with the "niceties" of life, Ben disregards such things as pet regulations at a motel. His "auditing" questions are sometimes downright rude, and he often makes other people feel very uncomfortable. Personal space and boundaries don't much matter to him, and as a result he comes off as a creepy stalker more often than not.
There are some bloody views of surgery.
To tiptoe softly around the issues raised by Seven Pounds would be to spend eight or 10 pages trying to explain things. So the only way I can conceive of dealing with the worldview presented is to be bluntly concise: This is a movie about a man who decides that life is not worth living anymore. His decision is made out of both guilt and grief—his wife (presumably) died during a car accident he carelessly caused. Philanthropically wishing to help others as he makes his exit, he arranges for his vital organs to be transplanted into "worthy" people.
"Usually with the films that I make there are ideas that I connect to, but lately I've been dealing with the bittersweet in life because it feels more natural," star Will Smith told Newsweek when asked why he would "take on a character like that" in a movie that "is pretty haunting." Smith continued, "You don't ever get it really the way you want in life. That really fascinates me. As an actor there are certain parts of a character that you create, and you train yourself to have those reactions and then it becomes hard to stop them when the role is over. You have to retrain yourself. My character in this film is like hot grits. You know you can't shake them off and when you do, it hurts."
Smith isn't the only one who will have a hard time shaking off Ben. Or the misshapen—and somehow frightening—ideas about life and death that he embodies.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Will Smith as Ben Thomas; Rosario Dawson as Emily Posa; Woody Harrelson as Ezra Turner; Michael Ealy as Ben's Brother; Barry Pepper as Dan; Elpidia Carrillo as Connie Tepos