I think this is a really great film. For the most part maybe it’s a bit predictable, a bit sentimental and has the occasional clichéd moment…but it has a really important message that everyone would do well with seeing. That’s really why I love it!
A social studies teacher (Kevin Spacey) gives an assignment to his class to think of an idea to change the world for the better, then put it into action. When one young student (Haley Joel Osment) creates a plan for "paying forward" favours, he not only affects the life of his alcoholic single mother (Helen Hunt), but he sets in motion an unprecedented wave of human kindness which, unbeknownst to him, has become a national phenomenon.
The story itself is different, original and one that provokes a lot of thought from the audience. This film has the potential to inspire you to be a better person. My only predicament with it is the ending. Not to spoil the film too much but I feel like it was completely random and frankly unnecessary. I feel like it just contradicts everything the film has been trying to hone into us beforehand. But I suppose it’s a judgement call…All that aside, I do actually believe it is a very underrated film. It's really worth the watch.
The three lead actors are all incredible. Haley Joel’s character, Trevor, is very similar to his role as Cole in The Sixth Sense. He seems to play the lonely-profoundly-thinking boy so well. For an actor his age at the time this film was made, he is really amazing, proving that he can hold his own equally amongst the adult actors. Kevin Spacey’s character had the most impact on me I think. He had very extensive burn scars and it was clear how insecure he felt about them. But Helen Hunt’s character, Arlene, didn’t consider them an issue, even thinking his avoidance was because he didn’t feel about her “that way”. I really liked this aspect of the plot. Kevin Spacey’s delivery of the moment we find out the reasons for his scarring is heart-breaking. This actor never disappoints. I loved the relationship between these three characters too.
The film didn’t run in chronological time, which I found a bit confusing. There were two plots essentially running through parallel to each other before coming together by the end. I’m not sure how necessary it was after. It was kind of interesting to see how they came together. It’s something to keep you wondering throughout the film. The plot otherwise is, frankly, quite predictable as I’ve said. But at the same time this doesn’t really matter because you’ll be so taken up with the acting anyway.
There are some very mixed feelings about this film. Some absolutely love it, some really hate it, while others are in between like me. I think it is worth viewing. But I would advise bringing the tissues and an open mind...