Based on a book of the same name by LA Times columnist Steve Lopez, The Soloist tracks the unlikely friendship between Lopez (Robert Downey Jnr) and Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx), a homeless, schizophrenic man who once studied at the prestigious Juilliard arts school.
Lopez comes across Ayers playing a two-stringed violin beneath a statue of Beethoven, and is blown away by the juxtaposition of the man's talent and passion, and his manic speech and general confusion. Lopez decides to write a column on his find, but he soon finds himself unable to abandon the story after it's published.
Lopez embarks on a mission to improve Ayer's life - finding him shelter and the chance to listen to professional musicians - but as he does so, he realises his life lacks the passion Ayers' has.
The film is a work of extremes: the ugliness of LA's Skid Row set to Beethoven's rousing creations, Ayer's current mental state versus flashbacks to his childhood genius, and LA's riches clashing with the extreme poverty faced by the city's more than 90,000 homeless.
But what could have been a blub-fest is saved from over-sentimentality by Downey's no-nonsense Lopez and Ayer's self-respect. An underrated, powerful film everyone should see.