“Think of an idea to change the world – and put it into action.” This is the assignment that Mr. Symonet puts in front of a thinking bunch of seventh grade students that gives the foundation to the story that follows. Pay It Forward forcefully underlines the message that whoever you are and in which ever circumstances you come from, each and every one of us has the power to bring change which can have rippling effects across borders.
How we can all become a human chain of goodwill.
The movie opens up with a scene where a journalist’s car gets hit while he tries to follow a story of a house robbery. A random stranger meets him and offers to give him his jaguar for the broken car in exchange. Curious at this offer, the journalist tries to find the reason for his “generosity” and figures that there’s in fact been a chain of paying a favour forward to another person in need. Intrigued by this kind of a series, he follows back to each person in the chain across America.
Simultaneous to this track, is shown about 12 year old Trevor –An inquisitive and sensitive boy, who comes from a broken family. He lives with his alcoholic mother, Arlene, a waitress who often suffers at the hands of her occasionally-turning-up-abusive husband. Trevor is deeply affected by his mother’s alcohol addiction as well as the father’s abuses.
As school opens, the class is introduced to their new social science teacher, Mr. Symonet who induces upon their minds about the thought that there’s a “world out there and even if you decide not to meet it, it’s gonna hit your right in the face” and gives them this assignment – to think of ways in which they can change the world, and put it into action. Trevor very intuitively comes up with the human chain plan wherein he would influence the lives of 3 people around him, and then those 3 in turn would have to pay it forward by influencing the lives of 3 more people around them and so on. His number one subject is a man he finds in a group of gypsy vagabonds, but he is disappointed soon when that man goes back to his previous ways of drugs and wastage. His next target is Mr. Symonet whom he tries to set up with his lonely mother. One among his plans is also to rescue his friend Adam who is constantly harassed by the school bullies. When none works out he is deeply upset at having failed at both his project as well as personal attempts to get Mr. Symonet and his mother together when his father arrives all of a sudden. The reasons for Mr. Symonet’s physical and mental scars are then revealed which forces Arlene to re think of her decisions. The performances by Haley Joel Osment as Trevor is heart –warming. Your heart feels for this young boy’s desperate attempts at making some kind of impact not majorly on the world but mostly in his own inner circle. The portrayal of Arlene by Helen Hunt as well as Mr. Symonet by Kevin Spacey as adults who are often stunted by their own personal insecurities is also very apt.
Finally ‘Pay It Forward’ is one of those soft hearted, optimistic movies which hopes to give you hope about the illusion of a perfect world. The premise that a 12 year old boy can change the world can be a little disbelieving yet so convincing that by the end of the movie, even the most hard-hearted will be able to feel the lump in their throat and a trickle of tear in their eyes.
“When someone does you a big favour, don’t pay him back. PAY IT FORWARD. “