The 2009 movie The Soloist is based on a book by the same name, written by Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez. It portrays the real-life story of Lopez (Robert Downey, Jr.) and a homeless schizophrenic, Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx). A Juilliard dropout, Ayers has landed on the streets, his belongings reduced to a shopping cart of trash.
One day, Lopez notices this homeless man playing a two-stringed violin; sensing a story, he stops to learn more. Ayers's mention of Juilliard intrigues the newspaperman. Lopez begins to spend time with Ayers, and the two gradually develop a friendship.
Over the course of The Soloist, Lopez helps Ayers reconnect with his music. In doing so, he discovers that helping someone struggling with severe mental illness is not an easy task. At times Ayers is violent. The men experience both setbacks and triumphs. Lopez also learns some of the complex challenges involved in mental illness and homelessness.
By the end of the movie, Lopez has come to realize that what Ayers needs most is not material, but relational and spiritual--better living conditions, yes, but more importantly, a friend. In the end, The Soloist is the story of how one man sets out to help his homeless brother and ultimately learns from him the true nature of grace and love.