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:: Pay It Forward

The set-up of this film is deceptively simple. Trevor (Haley Joel Osment) is 11 and starting his first day of high school. His social studies teacher Eugene Simonet (Kevin Spacey) sets an assignment for the students to think of a way they can change the world and then put it into action. He sets the same assignment every year-no one ever really takes it to heart, but this year of course, Trevor does. His white-trash alcoholic mother Arlene - played surprisingly well by Helen Hunt who appears to be following in Julia Roberts and Elizabeth Shue's footsteps, where cleavage+mini-skirt+heart of gold=guaranteed critical acclaim - is none too impressed when her son brings home a vagrant as part of this school assignment. From this shaky start, Trevor invents the concept of “paying it forward”-he endeavours to make an important difference to the lives of three people, and rather than them returning the favour, they must then pay it forward to three other people. Whilst Trevor encounters his fair share of resistance at the sharp end of his pyramid scheme, paying it forward takes on a life of its own and soon an inquisitive journalist finds himself on the end of a favour and traces the story back to the source.

Set against the bleak desert backdrop on the outskirts of Las Vegas, the characters tragic and despairing lives are ultimately touched forever by Trevor and his gesture to change the world. Based on the best-selling book of the same name by Catherine Ryan Hyde, the movie is an outstanding execution of an elegant idea. Director Mimi Leder is used to the Hollywood action blockbuster, (Deep Impact, The Peacemaker) but they're always grounded with the sensitivity required for character driven drama, and without the special effects of her previous efforts, that's exactly what we're left with in “Pay it Forward”.

The ending is a surprise - there is none of the twist found in Haley Joel Osment's previous film “The Sixth Sense” -but it succeeds in shaking the film out of the “merely interesting” bag, and into the “thought-provoking” bag instead. It's a terrific film, very emotional, very moving. Go see this film, then tell three other people to go see this film. You'll be doing them a favour.