“There are over 90,000 homeless people living on the streets in Los Angeles.” – This is one of the final lines to come across the screen at the end of this film starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Jamie Foxx.
The film tells the story of an unhappy Los Angeles Times reporter who stumbles across a homeless man with an incomparable gift of music. This discovery and the journey they have together sheds light on a very real and very accurate situation in areas of Los Angeles such as Skid Row where the homeless of the city are often forced to congregate.
Downey’s character (Steve Lopez) first becomes interested in Nathaniel Ayers’ (Jamie Foxx)musical talents when he is walking through a park and hears the music of Beethoven while looking at a lifelike statue of the famous musician in the park. He seeks the source of the music and attempts to engage the street artist, Ayers. Ayers shows signs of struggling with mental clarity and manages to mention that he attended the prestigious Julliard School in his early years.
Thus begins the unlikely relationship between the pair. Ayers becomes the subject of Lopez’ column and breathes feelings of life and love back into his world. However, their relationship is as unsteady as Ayers’ state of mind and there are several struggles along the way.
But, through it all, Lopez is able to gain a unique perspective on the homeless community in Los Angeles. He learns their names, their stories and the trials they must face to survive on a daily basis. Having once been to Los Angeles for a mission trip where we attempted to help the homeless there, I could easily pinpoint the areas portrayed in the film and find some degree of comparison in what the conditions there are truly like.
This film was important to me because it took an individual out of that 90,000 living on the streets of Los Angeles and told his story, the story that makes him special and worthy of being known and respected. I also appreciated the honesty it portrayed when describing the relationship between Lopez and Ayers. There were times when Lopez was threatened, when his aid was rejected, and when his intentions were completely misinterpreted and misunderstood.
This is the life of the social worker, the humanitarian, the individual trying to help someone out. It is not idealistic, it is challenging and it can put you in danger. But, the investment in another individual is the greatest gift when it seems that they have lost all hope.
Oh, and did I mention it is a true story? You can find Steve Lopez’ book on Amazon if you wish to read the original tale.