The Soloist is a rarity—a triumph-of-the-spirit movie in which the hero’s triumph is ambiguous. It’s a movie about accepting small successes and living within your limits.
The character primed to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles is Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx), a man who has schizophrenia and lives on the streets of Los Angeles. In his youth Ayers was a promising Juilliard cellist, and his musical gifts extend to a number of instruments he’s taken up casually. The film’s chief protagonist, however, is Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.), the Los Angeles Times columnist who writes a series of stories about Nathaniel, then tries to set him up in his own apartment and restore him to a life of playing music. Susannah Grant’s screenplay adapts the book that Lopez—a real person—fashioned out of his columns.