When questioned what is the movie that has had the most profound effect on me, I right away thought of the 2006 film “The Pursuit of Happyness,” starring Will and Jaden Smith.
The film is based on the memoir of Christopher Gardner. Christopher was living in San Francisco in the 80s when he decided to invest his entire life savings into portable bone-density scanners. Unfortunately, after a while he began having difficulty selling these machines to Doctors, which lead to a very difficult financial struggle for himself, his wife Linda and 5-year-old son, Christopher Jr.
However, Christopher is a very determined and smart individual. While downtown trying to sell his scanner, he meets Jay Twistle who is a manager for a financial firm. He eventually impresses Jay and winds up earning himself an internship at his firm amongst 20 others, in hopes of landing the one paid position as a broker.
Unfortunately, an internship doesn’t pay money and this enrages his wife Linda who is worried for their family’s well being. She winds up moving to New York, leaving her son and Christopher to fend for themselves.
Christopher, now a single dad, sadly ends up becoming homeless with his son, as he is left with $22.
Throughout this tough time, he continues to try and sell the last of his scanners and works hard at his internship, despite his lack of knowledge, experience and time relative to the fellow interns. He decides he will begin making calls to the potentially highest value customers, instead of starting from the bottom of the list like the other job candidates.
With barely anything, but his drive, perseverance and love for his son, Chris is able to win the job position and it is later revealed that he ended up opening his own multi-million dollar brokerage firm.
While this film may seem like your typical rag-to-riches story, what stood out to me about it was its ability to tell the story so honestly. Rather than the typical series of downfalls followed by the one big win at the end, The Pursuit of Happyness shows how Gardner’s life was nothing close to a smooth path. The movie shows moments of hope followed by moments of despair, and vice versa, which allows the movie to seem much more realistic.
In addition, in times where you would think that just about anyone would just give up, Chris Gardner showed an inspiring determination. With his wife leaving him, his last bone density scanner broken, living in a shelter, amongst plenty of other issues, Chris never let that impact his confidence in his own ability. He believed he could succeed in his internship and that is all he needed to get out of the hole he found himself in.
A particular scene that stuck out to me not only because it was emotional but also because it was very telling of Chris’ selflessness, was when Chris and his son end up spending the night in a public restroom. Undoubtedly, this would be a distressing situation for any single father, having to stay with their son in a possibly unsafe setting overnight. However, Chris ensured to make light of the situation, playing games with his son and making sure he felt comfortable and safe, even if he himself didn’t. Throughout the movie, Chris put his son first and never lets him see the true struggles that he was facing on a day-to-day basis.
One of the best lines that embodies Chris Gardner’s strength is when he tells his son, “You got a dream, you gotta protect it. People can’t do something themselves, they want to tell you that you can’t do it. You want something? Go get it. Period.” This quote is so relevant, especially in this time of Social Media, where people are able to be anonymous when trying to tear others down. It is so easy for people to tear down others simply because they are envious of their success, or even their potential for success. And unfortunately this can impact someone to stray away from this potential. However, being aware of this and staying focused on what you know you can achieve, will detract from the influence that others can have on your own success.
All in all, while the plot line tells a story that is similar to one that has been told many times before, the way the movie portrays it was very unique and captivating to me. It was intriguing to watch someone with so much faith in themselves and their capabilities, get torn down and “dragged through the mud,” but at the same time remain resilient and hopeful that they will make it through to the other side. And of course, in typical Hollywood fashion, the movie satisfies with a happy ending that shows that continuing the pursuit when everything is seemingly telling you to give up eventually does pay off.