The Soloist

THE SOLOIST is the kind of film which members of the Activate Your Life community could go and see with a group of friends and then, over a drink afterwards, find lots of interesting issues to talk about which would easily link into the important areas of life and faith. And when the film is released on DVD – a Film Night in your home could provide a great evening of entertainment and discussion.

The following article has come from LICC (London Institute for Contemporary Christianity – it gives an overview of this brilliant new film.

Whether it’s the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle we’re completing, or the flavour lacking in the meal we’re preparing, all of us are familiar with the anxious sense that something is missing. Frequently, our anxiety stems from not being able to place exactly what it is that’s missing – that one thing without which the whole seems incomplete. It’s a feeling that many experience about life in general – why, when everything seems to be present, are we still conscious of a, sometimes gaping, hole?

This is the question explored in the recent film, The Soloist.

An adaptation of a true story, originally recorded in LA journalist Steve Lopez’s award-winning book, the film records the relationship between Lopez and Nathaniel Ayers, a homeless man he encounters after hearing him playing Beethoven on a beaten-up, two-stringed violin in a city subway. Ayers clearly has plenty of holes in his life; a childhood musical prodigy, he was robbed of a promising career, and almost everything else besides, by schizophrenia. Lopez, on the other hand, being celebrated and successful, seems to be much more complete.

Near the beginning of their relationship, Lopez asks Ayers to tell of his greatest desire. ‘To find my other two strings’ is his answer, and that search sets up the remainder of the film. What might they be, those things that would enable him to play to his full potential once again, and where on earth might he find them?

Christian imagery abounds. Large illuminated crosses adorn the premises of the homeless charity. As Nathaniel struggles with the chaos of city life, he recites the Lord’s Prayer. A professional musician tries, unsuccessfully, to exert his evangelical influence, yet in a flashback, Nathaniel’s mother affirms that when she listens to him play, she hears ‘the voice of God’. All of this serves as a backdrop to an evolving friendship that is seen as being transformative in itself. At one point Lopez tries to explain to his ex-wife the influence that Ayers and his music is having on him. ‘It’s grace’, she whispers in his ear.

At the conclusion of the film, Ayers is off the streets, but any recovery is acknowledged as very fragile. Lopez, though, is profoundly changed; he seems to have found what he didn’t know was missing.

What were those strings, that which was missing yet proved to be so profoundly life-enhancing? Not so much the obvious things: the provision of an apartment, simple recourse to medication, or the trite slogans of religion; but friendship and faith, community and beauty…

Something like grace?

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