Synopsis & Review Pay It Forward (2000), Sentimental Drama This film with a message of kindness is an adaptation of the novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde
A boy seeks to make the world a better place after his teacher gives him that opportunity. This film with a message of kindness is an adaptation of the novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde which was published in 1999.
The novel itself became popular after the film adaptation was released and was awarded as one of the Best Books for Young Readers in 2001 from the American Library Association. There are some differences from the novel, which we will also review later, but the essence of the story and the good message it wants to convey are not lost.
This film was released on October 20, 2000 and is now available on Netflix screens. Before watching it, let’s look at our review below for consideration.
Trevor (Haley Joel Osment) is a bright 11 year old boy who comes from a troubled family. His mother, Arlene (Helen Hunt), is an alcoholic trying to hold on to two jobs for the sake of her son, while Trevor’s father left them some time ago.
At school, Trevor’s class are introduced to their new social studies teacher, Mr. Simonet (Kevin Spacey), a regular man with quite a few scars on his face. Simonet gives her class unusual assignments, thinks up practical concepts to make the world a better place, and makes them happen.
Trevor came up with an idea he called Pay It Forward, which was to do the needed favors to three different people without being asked, and have them do the same to three other people. Trevor starts by letting Jerry, an addict who lives on the streets, live in his house.
Later, he tries to introduce his mother to his teacher, as both are lonely and he thinks a clean and sober teacher might be able to help his mother stay away from alcoholic beverages. And lastly, he tries to save one of his schoolmates, who is constantly being tormented by students who like to commit acts of bullying.
Meanwhile, a journalist named Chris, finds himself stuck on the street without a car one night after covering a hostage-taking incident, when a man stops and gives him the keys to his new car, asking him only to give someone else a hand. Chris was amazed and wanted to find out where this philosophy came from.
The Meaning of Pay It Forward Philosophy
Pay It Forward is a philosophy of kindness that is expressed by Trevor in this film. The method is to provide assistance that three people cannot do alone, then provide conditions for the three people to do the same for three other people, and so on.
Like the kindness of the earrings, this concept is not easy to do, even by Trevor as the originator. He hopes to spread kindness as much as possible to reach the whole world according to the concept of the task given by his teacher. Uniquely, even though he himself considered his task a failure, because it only worked for his mother, it turns out that this concept has become a “movement”.
As we can see, although in a non-linear flow, the investigation of a journalist who tracked down the initiator of this idea from Los Angeles finally found the creator in Las Vegas, after interviewing several of the perpetrators of this philosophy. Apparently, from his mother’s line, to his grandmother, then to a criminal, and on to a judicial official who gave Chris his car.
Basically, doing good does not have to be determined by a handful of people and must be unconditional, aka sincere. The more good we do, of course, will add to the coffers of reward for our provision on the last day. The hope is that good deeds can influence other people to do good to others, and so on, and so on.
The difference between the novel and the film
Pay It Forward has several differences between the novel and the film, including the location of the story, where in the film it is told that it takes place in Las Vegas, Nevada, while in the novel it is told in Atascadero, California, a small town not far from the house of Catherine Ryan Hyde, author of the novel. .
Eugene Simonet’s character in the novel named Reuben St. Clair that is told is a citizen of African-American descent. Simonet’s burns were caused by a crime committed by his father, who set himself on fire by pouring gasoline all over his body, but in the novel, the burns were obtained as a result of a bomb explosion when Simonet was serving in the Vietnam War.
In his novel, the movement based on Trevor’s concept of kindness is very popular throughout America, so that he is invited by the President to the White House and dies after being stabbed due to a fight by thugs on the street. Whereas in the film, Trevor’s popularity only reaches the news on TV and he is stabbed to death by a school student who likes to bully his friend.
This difference still seems natural, it just changes the location and the perpetrators, while the events and outline of the story remain the same, so that the message of goodness that is conveyed does not experience a reduction in meaning let alone change.
When the film was released in 2000, a lot of expectations were instilled for Pay It Forward. There are Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt as Oscar-winning actors and actresses plus a child actor who has just risen and is predicted to be successful in the future, Haley Joel Osment. And the image of the smell of the Oscar stage seemed ready to be smelled.
But what happened was not as expected. Even though Kevin Spacey appeared in a pretty good performance and Helen Hunt wasn’t too bad either, the two of them couldn’t display the chemistry that shows if they have a sense of love as a couple. Meanwhile, Osment only sells the innocence of children, much different from what he displayed in The Sixth Sense a year earlier.
This was then exacerbated by the script which seemed to only want to force the audience’s tears to flow, too melodrama. Even the ending is very heartbreaking without leaving a sense of empathy. It’s like there is an empty void with events that are forced to end this film in a tragic condition. Once again for the sake of the audience’s tears.
But there is one actor who is a scene stealer, namely David Ramsey as Sidney, a criminal who participates in this concept. There are two scenes from him that make the atmosphere fresh and funny, namely when he is in the hospital where he helps an asthma patient and a different narrative from the scene that tells how he started to follow this concept of kindness.
This manipulation of the audience’s emotions almost closes the message of kindness that Pay It Forward wants to convey, but at least we will be made to understand that even the slightest act of kindness can actually have a big impact on other people without us realizing it. Our recommendation, at least put this film on the watchlist first and it’s worth watching in your free time.