Although Will Smith is a name synonymous with leading men in summer blockbusters, he’s also starred in numerous small scale movies that while not as flashy as big budget fare, nevertheless often make an impact. And one of the best of these, 2006 drama The Pursuit of Happyness, has now arrived on Netflix.
The film is based on the true story of Chris Gardner and his struggle with poverty and homelessness, while doing everything he can to raise his young son properly and work to better his life. Beginning in 1981, Chris is introduced as a salesman striving to make a living selling portable bone density scanners to hospitals. After a chance meeting with a stockbroker, he manages to secure himself an internship at a brokerage firm, all the while gradually overcoming the problems in his life that linger and threaten to undo everything he’s trying to achieve.
It’s not exactly a feelgood film, but rather one that demonstrates the potential for anyone to overcome adversity if given the opportunity to do so, and certainly doesn’t skimp on showing the hardships that Chris has to endure in the name of bettering both his own life and the future for his son, with the numerous setbacks he suffers being just as significant as his achievements.
Like any biographical pic, the subject matter is streamlined and simplified, but it certainly doesn’t detract from how powerful the story is or how compelling a watch it makes for. The central message of The Pursuit of Happyness is that there is always a chance to improve a situation even when things seem overwhelmingly bleak, which is exactly the kind of sentiment that many people need in their lives right now and perhaps more than ever, and may well give this Will Smith movie a new lease of life of Netflix.