Director: Joe Wright Release Date: 25 September Review by Scott Murphy Mental illness, conflicted characters, a cynical journalist who is not quite so cynical in the end. So far so Oscar-worthy, add to this current on-form actors Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx plus hot Brit director Joe Wright fresh from the success of Atonement and surely you have the perfect mix for critical praise, Oscar gold and maybe a bit box office, on the side. Well no, the film did receive largely positive reviews, but the release date was moved forward, and was removed from the 2010 Oscar race. It only received modest box office success in the States but it would be harsh to call it a flop. The story revolves around journalist, Steve Lopez. He’s pressed for a story when he discovers Nathaniel Ayers, a mentally ill, homeless street musician who possesses extraordinary talent, even through his half-broken instruments. Inspired by his story, Lopez writes an acclaimed series of articles about Ayers and attempts to do more to help him and the rest of the underclass of LA have a better life. Of course, Lopez has to deal with the complexities of Ayers illness (schizophrenia) and his eyes are opened to the extent of the homeless problem. He reluctantly become Ayers’ main support. It’s incredibly difficult to make a film like this without coming across as overly sentimental, contrived and clichéd. This does happen occasionally and it is certainly not flawless but the film does manage for the most part to stay on the right side of the fence without becoming too twee and schmaltzy. The best parts are certainly when the film focuses on the central pairing as both Downey Jr. and Foxx give knockout performances and although Foxx has the more notably showy performance, it is Downey Jr. who steals the film. Also their some good supports, with the nearly-always good, Catherine Keener giving another fine performance to add to her resume. It does not all work. When the film tries to make comment on the homeless situation it seems overwrought. Overall, the film manages to unsentimentally tackle the issues of schizophrenia and homelessness with a subtly that Hollywood rarely manages to do. It might veer into cliché at times but it’s definitely worth a look. Rating:7/10