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"...My idea - Do you think it's good?",
This review is from: Pay It Forward [DVD]  (DVD)
Shortly after the film opens we see a man stunned by the generosity demonstrated by a complete stranger when he gives him a brand new Jaguar car. The film then jumps back four months and we see the beginning of a chain of events leading up to that moment...
Mr Simonet is a new teacher who sets a piece of interesting homework for the pupils in his class - he asks them to think of something they can do which will change the world. Young Trevor sets his mind on the task and creates a karmic pyramid scheme which will eventually have an impact on himself and those around him. The scheme is a utopian plan where a person does a good deed to three people, they each then do a good deed for three more people, and it continues exponentially.
The film is segmented and we see acts of kindness and characters who seem to have little importance in the plot other than to show how the `pay it forward' scheme works, but as the film develops their significance is revealed. It would have been easy for this film to have been incredibly cheesy, especially when you consider that Trevor comes from a broken home and is trying to get his teacher and mum romantically involved - but the film balances the sentimental with solid characters whose lives are far from perfect. Despite what seems to be a very idealistic scheme to make the world a better place, there's a fair amount of darkness in Pay It Forward.
Kevin Spacey is brilliant as the scarred teacher who hides his disfigurement behind words. He manages to put across the awkwardness and pain of a man who on the surface appears very strong, but underneath lacks confidence. He contrasts perfectly with the brash personality of Trevor's mother, she is played by Helen Hunt who also brings to the film a depth which does justice to a character who is struggling with alcoholism while trying to do the best by her son. The first impression of either character is less than appealing but once you learn about their histories and their motives, you start to really care about what happens to them.
The child devised Pay It Forward scheme adds a unique quirk and to a movie which is a pretty compelling watch anyway because of the strong performances and very personal stories.
In a nutshell: It's easy to make a feel-good film which appeals to the masses, but it's not easy to make such a film which can be taken seriously and tackles so many social issues. This borders on becoming corny Hollywood bilge but instead of looking like obvious over-sentimentalism, it stays grounded by characters you can believe in and reflect life. This is a film about repercussion; not just about passing on acts of goodwill, but how a dark past can affect someone throughout their adult life. There's not a weak performance in Pay It Forward, and it might just make you think.
Location: Doncaster, Yorkshire, UK.
Top Reviewer Ranking: 86