Based on the book by the same name written by Catherine Ryan Hade, Mimi Leder’s movie, Pay it Forward is a beautiful movie that tells the story of an eleven year old boy, Trevor McKinney (Haley Joel Osment, of the Sixth Sense), who believes that it is possible for the world to become a better place, only if people tried to do so. When Trevor’s Social Sciences teacher, Mr. Eugene Simmonet (Kevin Spacey) gives the class an assignment to think of something to change the world and put it into action, Trevor comes up with an idea of doing a good deed for three different people, and instead of asking them to return him the favour, he asks them to do a similar deed for three other people. The rules of the deeds are, one, it has to be something that really helps people. And secondly, it has to be something they can’t do by themselves.
Thus, when he implements his plan by helping a homeless man by giving him a place to stay, without his mother’s (Arlene McKinney, played by Helen Hunt) knowledge, the wheels of a social movement that would soon cross cities and states are set in motion.
Trevor’s childhood was scarred by his parents’ alcoholism, which often caused his father (Jon Bon Jovi) to beat his mother. Now, living away from his father, Trevor hopes that his mother would soon fall for Mr. Simmonet, as he deeply admires his teacher. Eugene himself has great affection for Trevor, for he sees a lot of himself in his student (Eugene’s father was also an alcoholic, and had in his drunken state burnt his son). Despite getting off on the wrong foot, Eugene and Arlene soon start developing feelings for each other.
Although to Trevor his plan seems to be a failure, the Pay it Forward movement actually becomes a big success, and is traced back by a reporter Chris Chandler (Jay Mohr), who benefited from the movement. Chandler faces a series of hurdles to track down how the movement began, finally locates Trevor, and finds it difficult to believe that a boy, who is at that time celebrating his twelfth birthday, could have come up with such a life changing idea.
At the end of the movie, Trevor tries to help a boy being bullied by two of his peers. Trevor had earlier failed to help the boy when he had been a similar situation, and had always felt horrible about it. In his attempt to save the boy, Trevor is stabbed by one of the bullies, and dies of the wounds. When Mr. Simmonet and Trevor’s mother are mourning his death at his house, hundreds of people gather outside in a candlelight vigil to pay their tributes for the boy who changed their lives. The scene, showing cars far into the horizon heading towards Trevor’s house, is soul stirring, and if you don’t feel like being a better person after seeing this movie, then you can never be. Pay it Forward is a must watch for all people who want to make a difference.