The Soloist



Based on a true story, Journalist Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.) struggles to find a refreshing and original topic to write about for his L.A Times column. After a bike accident he meets homeless Julliard dropout, Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx) beautifully playing a dilapidated old violin with only two strings. He has seemingly been playing in this spot for years but on this day encounters Lopez who relates to Nathaniel and stops to listen to his music. Though he is talented he is also troubled and suffers from schizophrenia, making the article all the more interesting for Lopez. Though at first he is only interested in his story the two develop a friendship and Lopez works hard to help not only Nathaniel turn his life around but the hundreds if not thousands of other homeless people in the terrifying area where Nathaniel has been living. The film is well directed despite a few slightly overlong scenes of Nathaniel playing the cello, and includes some interesting camera shots and techniques, notably the representation of music through coloured lights on the screen to illustrate the beauty of the music as seen by Nathaniel. The issues of homelessness and mental illness explored throughout the film are handled skilfully. The use of voices really adds to understanding the mind of a schizophrenic and leaves the viewer feeling as disorientated as Nathaniel. The progression of his disease is also illustrated well through flashbacks of his childhood and how he fell in love with music.

Wright actually hired real homeless people from the streets of L.A to star in the film, which reflects the intentions Downey Jr’s character has of helping the community.

Both Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie fox give excellent performances and Foxx especially is convincing as a schizophrenic. The friendship the two develop is really quite touching at times as is the progression of Downey’s character. Upon first entering the LAMP homeless shelter you can feel his discomfort as he locks his car and makes his way through the crowds but by the end of the film he has become close to many members of the community.

The conclusion of the film leaves the viewer neither emotionally drained nor leaping for joy but there is a certain amount of resolution. Interesting questions are raised and Lopez himself wonders how much he has really helped Nathaniel, as dealing with mental illness is never a simple task. Overall the soloist is a meaningful and thought provoking tale with aspects of humour, which leaves me looking forward to Wright’s next project.

Verdict: **


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