Archive for the ‘Homelessness’ Category


Music as a Healing Agent in The Soloist

May 2, 2009


To describe this fillm  as “mesmerizing” or “inspirational” only scratches the surface of what I experienced while watching the story unfold.  A touchingly raw portrait of the denizens of Los Angeles’ Skid Row The Soloist is the true story of the friendship between Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx) a homeless and mentally ill musical prodigy and Steve Lopez, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times.  While prowling through the streets of L.A. in search of a story for his column, Lopez encounters a psychologically disocciative Ayers playing a violin in the park and is taken by his intelligence, politeness, and talent (Ayers plays  the violin on two strings).  As Lopez investigates the reasoning of how a gifted musician transitions from a prestigious musical education at Julliard to homelessness his fascination makes him a permanent fixture in Ayers’ life.

What follows are scenes in which Lopez  attempts to connect Ayers with community resources and people that can provide housing and psychiatric services.  In between are  flashbacks of Ayers’ upbringing, relationship with his family, and the onset of his auditory hallucinations while in his early twenties at Julliard.  As Lopez focuses on solutions he becomes frustrated by Ayers’ bizarre behaviors, beliefs, and unwilligness to cooperate.  However it is Lopezes minimal understanding about schizophrenia and the all-too-common dual diagnosis of substance abuse and mental illness that frustrate him the most.  Is medication and counseling enough or is Ayers his peers incapable of healing via traditional therapeutic mediums?


The less Lopez focuses on fixing Ayers’ mind and encourages his talent Lopez understands what it means to be a better person, friend, and husband.  While Ayers certainly would benefit from housing and psychological support his problems are beyond what Lopez or any specialist can do for him.  At this particular moment in his life, Ayers’ therapeutic outlet is his music.  Schizophrenic or not Ayers is more than his past diagnoses but rather a gifted cellist who just happens to enjoy the acoustics of the underpasses and streets of Los Angeles.  All he needs is someone to look beyond his mental state and meet him at his level.  Sometimes being a friend is just enough. 

I’d be surprised if anyone left the theater without feeling a tug on the heart strings (no pun intended).  A cellist during my adolescent years, the character that moved me the most  is the soundtrack.  Music, very much like film, can too provide an outlet for healing and growth.  This message is brought to you in memory of my favorite “Golden Girl”,  Bea Arthur.  Thank you for being a friend.