Essay planning model (The Soloist)

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Essay planning model (The Soloist)

  1. “You can’t fix LA … and you’re never going to cure Nathaniel. Just be his friend and show up”. To what extent does The Soloist use Nathaniel’s story to present the journey of Steve Lopez, from detached observer to committed human being, making meaningful connections with the world?


  • To what extent – this invites argument; the topic has a degree of significance for the film but how much?

  • the journey of Steve Lopez – while the core of the film’s story is Nathaniel, Steve’s role in providing us with the narrative point of view is equally important because it also expands on a key theme of human connection; in seeking to change Nathaniel’s life for the better, Steve also changes by recognising that he can’t ‘play god’ through his role as a journalist

  • detached observer – the film is full of motifs and images that construct an image of Steve as a man whose mind is cut off from his involvement with the world; he tries to live out the cliché of the objective journalist who only reports the facts

  • meaningful connections with the world – from Joe Wright’s metaphors of microcosm to macrocosm, such as the motifs of the globe, to the editing of sequences linking the past with the present and his motif of an aeroplane that ends with Nathaniel’s sister arriving in LA, the film constantly makes ‘connections’ between things and particularly between people to make meaning. As a journalist, Steve initially tries to make these connections at a distance, through his writing, but the film shows him being forced to compromise and do it in person


While The Soloist tells the true story of homeless musician Nathaniel Anthony Ayers through the character of journalist Steve Lopez, it also expands on a key theme of human connection through the journalist’s personal journey in seeking to change Nathaniel’s life for the better. Lopez also changes in the course of the film, by recognising that he can’t ‘play god’ through his role as a journalist. The journey that we undertake with him takes us from impartial and objective observers of the world, to human beings identifying in empathy with the plight of others. Thus by making us identify with this character who tries to look at the world from a safe distance, the film uses Lopez to help us connect with its theme of connecting meaningfully with the world.

PLAN THE ESSAY (STRUCTURE – order and subject of paragraphs)

    1. Introduction (restatement of topic and elaboration, as above)

    2. Explanation of how the film establishes Lopez’s character (particularly motifs of his detached personality, as well as his role as a journalist, investigative technique and initial ‘connection’ with Ayers)

    3. (a), etc. The film’s narrative techniques of paralleling Ayers’ life story and Lopez’s developing relationship with him (dual characterisation as ‘outsiders’; gradual telling of Ayers’ past synchronised with his present; changes in Lopez’s character and relationship with Ayers; parallels between Lopez’s success through his columns and Ayers’ ongoing disadvantage; etc.)

    4. Other devices used in the film to emphasise wider connections between Lopez, Ayers and the world (the ‘larger’ story of Skid Row and LAMP; Hurricane Katrina; links with Lopez’s personal life; etc. )

    5. Conclusion – round off with Lopez’s final newfound perspective & give 'food for thought'