Christopher Hitchens once noted that the time he most questioned his atheism was when listening to Bach. Bach’s music, he noted, could be so stirring that he was occasionally tempted to posit the existence of a higher reality. The Soloist is a film centered around precisely this concept, and for that reason, is a film well worth looking at.

Now, as a preliminary note, I will offer that watching this film is kind of like listening to a piece of jazz music played by an emotionally unstable musician, which is fitting given that Nathaniel (Jamie Foxx) is an emotionally unstable musician. Put another way, the film is very “artsy” in both its cinematography and its narrative development, often picking up a narrative only to put it down without resolution; it’s not a linear story line.

With that said, the story is not about the musician, but is actually about the writer (Robert Downey, Jr.) and how he changes through his interactions with Nathaniel. From this perspective, the Soloist chronicles the true story of a journalist’s search for meaning and transcendence as he struggles with feelings of inadequacy and disillusionment. Nathaniel changes very little through the course of the film; Steve Lopez, on the other hand, is completely transformed by his encounter with Nathaniel and slowly realizes that there is grace and transcendence at work in the world (though he does not discover its source in the film). In this regard, the film does an admirable job of exploring the effects of life’s little expressions of grace, not the least of which is found in the stirring effects of music.