What's the story?
Seventh grader Trevor (Haley Joel Osment) has every reason to believe that life is harsh and painful. His parents are alcoholics and his father is either absent or abusive. He walks into school every day through a metal detector. Outside his classroom window is an endless expanse of desert. And his mom works two jobs in a city filled with despair, Las Vegas. But then his teacher Eugene (Kevin Spacey) encourages his students to "backflip" the world into something better. He does not expect much -- maybe a clean-up of some graffiti. But Trevor decides to do three important favors for people who need them. Then, instead of allowing them to pay it back, he will ask each of them to "pay it forward," doing three favors for other people, and asking them to do the same. One of Trevor's favors is to bring his mom Arlene and Eugene together, though it turns out that it is not just to make them happier. Arlene and Eugene put all of their effort into making sure they do not get hurt again until they learn that it is risking hurt that makes us alive.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie has some strong language, and characters abuse alcohol and drugs, including heroin and marijuana. There are references to the most severe domestic abuse. There are some fights, one resulting in mortal injury. A character attempts suicide. Another shoots his gun, though no one is injured. A character dies tragically. There are sexual references and a discreet sexual situation. A character's burn scars may be upsetting. Pre-teens and teens may be especially concerned by the violence that occurs at a school, despite the metal-detectors kids walk through as they enter.
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