Culture Desk

PAY IT FORWARD: the film to watch to become better people

Pay It Forward

PAY IT FORWARD: the film to watch to become better people

The 2000 film “Pay It Forward” is an American romantic drama directed by Mimi Leder. Based loosely on the novel of the same name by Catherine Ryan Hyde, it takes place in Las Vegas and tells the story of the launch of a goodwill movement called “pay it forward” by 11-years-old Trevor McKinney.

Trevor McKinney starts seventh grade in Las Vegas. His social studies teacher, Eugene Simonet, assigns the class the task of implementing a plan that will change the world for the better. Trevor calls his plan “pay it forward”, which means that whoever receives a favour does it for three others instead of returning it. However, it must be a favour that the recipient cannot complete alone. Trevor implements the plan himself, forming a branch of good deeds. His first action consists of hosting a homeless man named Jerry in his garage, who repays the favour by repairing the car of Trevor’s mother, Arlene.

Meanwhile, Arlene confronts Eugene about Trevor’s plan after discovering Jerry in their house. Trevor chooses Eugene as the next target of his “pay it forward” and tricks his mother Eugene and his professor Arlene with a romantic dinner date. He wants, in fact, the two of them to embark on a love affair. A situation that will then be disrupted by the return of Riky, Trevor’s biological father, an alcoholic and violent man, and Eugene’s abusive past.

After the first date with Eugene, Arlene repays homeless Jerry’s favour by forgiving her own mother, Grace, for the mistakes she made in raising Arlene, and Grace, who is homeless herself, helps a gang member escape from the police. The gang member then saves the life of an asthmatic girl in hospital and the girl’s father gives Los Angeles journalist Chris Chandler his new car. In the course of the film, Chris traces the chain of favours back to its origin as Trevor’s school project.

Chris finally identifies Trevor as the creator of “pay it forward” and conducts a recorded interview in which Trevor describes his hopes and concerns for the project. Eugene, listening to Trevor, realises that he and Arlene should be together. As Eugene and Arlene reconcile with a hug, Trevor notices that his friend Adam is being bullied. He steps in for Adam, entering the scene and fighting the bullies as Eugene and Arlene rush to stop him. 


One of the bullies pulls out a switchblade while another pushes Trevor against him, fatally stabbing him in the stomach. Trevor later dies in hospital. The incident and the spread of the movement across the country are reported on the news; Arlene and Eugene are soon visited by thousands of people, including students from Trevor’s school, who have participated in or heard about the “pay it forward” movement and gather at a vigil in his honour.

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