Directed by Joe Wright.
Released April 2009
Do homeless people scare you? Do schizophrenics unsettle you?
Jamie Foxx is endearing and unsettling to watch as Nathaniel Ayers, a homeless man with a tremendous gift for music, a love for Ludwig van Beethoven and a mind that always keeps people guessing what he’ll do or say next. Robert Downey Jr. plays Los Angeles Times newspaper columnist Steve Lopez, who discovers Ayers playing a two-string violin and is moved to do something to help him. Like most of us, he wants this to be something that doesn’t require too much of a sacrifice on his part, such as passing along a cello a reader has donated to Ayers. As often happens, life is a little messier than Lopez would like it to be.
What the movie shows well is that Ayers isn’t the only one who’s alienated. So is Lopez (divorced and complaining of a college-age son who never calls him.) We watch not only as Lopez learns about the overwhelming problem of homelessness, but also as he comes to see Ayers as a human being and a friend.
A key moment in the film shows Lopez trying to figure out what it is that Ayers receives as he gets lost in the beauty of music, something he wishes he too could experience. His ex-wife tells him, “It’s called grace.” Grace involves obtaining a gift we don’t deserve. In a world so broken, grace is pretty amazing.