In 2005 Steve Lopez, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, met Nathaniel Ayers in a park in Los Angeles. Ayers was homeless. He was standing beneath a statue of Beethoven, playing a violin with only two strings. When Lopez learned that Ayers had attended the Julliard School of Music, he becames intrigued and began to investigate Ayers’ background. This is the beginning of the true story behind The Soloist.
Lopez wrote a number of columns about Ayers, and eventually wrote a book about him and their relationship, which continues to this day. The Soloist tells an interesting story of how a gifted young man with an untreated mental illness winds up fighting for survival on the streets of Los Angeles. Lopez tries to rescue Ayers from homelessness and schizophrenia, which may just not be possible.
This is a very good movie. Robert Downey Jr. is, for me, at his best playing Lopez, a rather lonely and depressed columnist looking for inspiration for his work, as well as meaning in his life. Jamie Foxx is, of course, superb as Ayers. He convincingly plays a man who, despite a debilitating mental illness, is able to devote himself to his music.
I’d particularly like to commend the young actor Justin Martin, who plays Ayers a teenager. We see him struggling with the voices and images in his head, while his devotion to his music grows. Martin does a great job with a small but demanding role.