In 2005, the only thing hurting Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez more than his face from a recent bike accident was his pressing need for story ideas. That is when he discovers Nathaniel Ayers, a mentally ill, homeless street musician who possesses extraordinary talent, even through his half-broken instruments. Inspired by his story, Lopez writes an acclaimed series of articles about Ayers and attempts to do more to help both him and the rest of the underclass of LA have a better life. However, Lopez's good intentions run headlong in the hard realities of the strength of Ayers' personal demons and the larger social injustices facing the homeless. Regardless, Lopez and Ayers must find a way to conquer their deepest anxieties and frustrations to hope for a brighter future for both of them.
See review on TimeOut
Questions For Discussion
- In what ways are Steve and Nathaniel soloists?
- Beyond the newspaper story, what are the deeper reason(s) Steve became interested in Nathaniel?
- "Nathaniel has one thing going for him right now. A friend." In light of the plight of the homeless, many of whom are mentally ill, do you think this perspective goes far enough?
- How were visual images or sounds used to portray themes in the movie?
- What do you think of the Recovery movement that is portrayed by the counsellor at The Lamp: "I don't have a whole lot of use for diagnosis."?
- How do both Steve Lopez and Graham Claydon (the Christian music teacher) become violent against Nathaniel in their attempt to help him?
- What does the movie suggest about the nature of grace?
- What did Nathaniel gain and lose as his friendship with Steve continued?
- Reflect on your own encounters with a homeless person. Were you able to look them in the eye?
- What biblical stories does 'The Soloist' remind you of, and why?
- How does listening to music (and appreciating other art forms) bear witness to the Spirit working in the world?
- Our attempts to help others sometimes backfires and has unintended results. How do we know if we're succeeding? How can we frame a situation so that the Spirit can heal?