Pay It Forward

From Academic Kids

Pay It Forward is a 2000 American drama/romance film directed by Mimi Leder. Written by Leslie Dixon from a Catherine Ryan Hyde book.


A school boy named Trevor McKinney (Haley Joel Osment) is given a project to complete from his social studies teacher Eugene Simonet (Kevin Spacey) by the end of the school year. His task is to come up with a plan that would change the world. On his way home from school, Trevor passes by a homeless man named Jerry (James Caviezel). Trevor then comes up with a plan to do a good deed for three people - to Pay It Forward.

The next morning, Trevor's mother, Arlene McKinney (Helen Hunt), a single mother and alcoholic, finds Jerry in her house and becomes angry at her son and visits with Mr. Simonet to talk about why this strange man was in her house. Simonet, bothered by this confrontation, is equally surprised by this plan to Pay It Forward.

That night, Trevor yells at his mother about her alcoholism and she smacks him, for the first time ever. Trevor runs away from home and she contacts Mr. Simonet to help her find Trevor. They find him at a bus station, being harassed by an older man, whom Mr. Simonet promptly drags into the public bathroom and beats him. Trevor and Arlene embrace in relief and apologizing to each other. During these events, a secondary plot line involves another man (Jay Mohr) who tries to find out why another strange man just gave him his car for no apparent reason, for free, after the first man had an accident with his own car. He said he was just Paying It Forward. Trevor then tries to get his mother to go out with Mr. Simonet. Shortly after, Arlent's ex-husband shows up and tries to get back with her. Later, Eugene confronts Arlent with an emotional appeal to not take her ex back because Trevor is afraid of him for the same reason that Eugene received a burn scar on his face when he was younger. However, Arlene refused to listen as she takes back her ex and they get into another fight again and he leaves before dealing out any physical abuse.

The man who was trying to track down Trevor eventually finds him and conducts an interview, which he records. Trevor then tells all about his Pay It Forward concept and explaining that it wouldn't work as too many people are not willing enough to change their own lives to make the whole world a better place. Eugene hears his speech and comes to realize he does not want to be one of those people, therefore, he meets with Arlene and tells her this.

Soon after, they hear noises outside and discover bullies fighting with another boy from the school and Trevor becomes involved to save the boy from them, but, a knife is pulled and Trevor is stabbed and killed on the playground. That evening, Arlene and Eugene are together watching the news on television, and they discover the Pay It Forward concept has spread across a large area. Then they realize something odd is going on outside the house and they look outside to see a huge group of people bearing candles and laying flowers in the frontyard.

The Pay It Forward Foundation ( have brought the plotline to life, supporting 'paying in forward' worldwide. The work of charitable innovator Jane Tewson and the nonprofit she founded, Timebank], has evolved as a similar concept and network.

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