A schizophrenic, Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx), is a homeless musician from Skid Row, Los Angeles who dreams of playing at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Through "chance," he meets a journalist, Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.), who tries to help this mentally disturbed man get "back on his feet" and make his dreams come true. Based on a book by Lopez, an account of his relationship with Ayers. Dr. Oliver Sacks, a famed neurologist, authenticates the Lopez account in his most recent book, "Musicophilia."
Steve Lopez hasn't had a good story in a while and the newspaper where he works is laying off journalists due to falling ratings. He had been looking for a story in all the wrong places; when he happened upon a homeless violinist, Nathaniel Ayers, playing beautifully with only 2 strings. Ayers was a former Juilliard student who begins to trust Lopez, and a friendship grows, but not necessarily to the benefit of either. While Lopez intention is to help Ayers; he isn't sure that he has in the end. Some believe Lopez saved Ayers, because he became his only friend. Can the act of caring be enough to help a person who has a mental illness? Even still, Lopez has been positively influenced by witnessing the musical genius he has found in Ayers. He was interested in Ayers and so were his readers and public officials, including the mayor, who pledges money for homeless centers.