Trevor McKinney, an eleven and a half year old boy, begins seventh grade in Las Vegas, Nevada. Eugene Simonet, his social studies teacher, gives the class an assignment to invent and put into action a plan that will transform the world for the better. Trevor’s plan is a generous program built on the networking of good deeds. He calls his plan “Pay it forward”, which means the receiver of a favor does a favor for a third party rather than paying the favor back. Trevor’s first good deed is to let Jerry, a homeless man, live in his garage.
In exchange, Jerry returns the favor forward by undertaking car repairs for Trevor’s mother. Later on, Jerry reverts back into his drug addiction letting all of Trevor’s hard work to seem unsuccessful. Magnificently, Jerry pays his dues forward by conversing with a suicidal lady who is about to leap off a bridge. Arlene (Trevor’s mother), opposes Eugene about her sons assignment after learning about Jerry in their home. At that time Eugene is selected by Trevor as the next “pay it forward” mark and deceits Eugene and his mother into a fanciful dinner date.
This plan also seems to fail till Trevor and Arlene dispute about her heavy drinking and she smacks him out of anger. When Trevor runs away from home, the two adults are brought back together again to help her find her son. When Trevor is found later, Arlene starts to pursue his son’s teacher sexually. Having burn marks noticeable on his neck and face, Eugene at first resists Arlene’s sexual advances. After they have slept with each other, Eugene is seen to have a wide range of scarring over his torso. Regardless of his physical deformity, Arlene accepts him just the way he is.
Arlene deserts their relationship when her alcoholic ex-husband Ricky returns. Eugene is raged by her ex-husbands return and tries to warn Arlene that Ricky’s old abusive habit will continue if she takes him back. When Ricky continues his abusive behavior once again, Arlene recognizes her mistake and leaves him once again. Trevor’s assignment marks the foundation of the story’s order of events. Then again, the opening scene of the movie displays one of the future favors in which a man offers a car to Chris Chandler, a journalist from LA.
Chandler traces the sequence of favors back to its beginning in Trevor’s school assignment. Arlene returned Jerry’s favor onward by pardoning her mother Grace for the mistakes she made in raising her, and Grace helped a gang member evade from the cops. The gang member saved a girl’s life and the girl’s father gave Chris his new vehicle. Chandler in the end recognizes Trevor as the creator of “pay it forward” and conducts a recorded interview in which Trevor defines his hopes and concerns for the project. Trevor’s words made Eugene realize that Arlene and him were meant to be together.
As Arlene and Eugene reunite with a loving embrace, Trevor notices his friend Adam being terrorized by a group of kids. As Trevor rushes to Adams aid, another bully enters the altercation and takes a knife out of his pocket. Trevor is stabbed accidentally and dies at the hospital later on. In the end, Eugene and Arlene are visited by hundreds of people who have partaken in the “pay it forward” program, paying their respects to Trevor. According to an analysis by Alan Winegarden “Pay It Forward was a modest box office success with approximately $27 million by November 2000 (Pay It Forward: Guy’s Review, 2000).
During 2001 Haley Joel Osment (Trevor McKinney) won the Blockbuster Entertainment Awards Favorite Supporting Actor in Drama/Romance Award and was nominated by the Young Artist Awards for the Best Performance in a Feature Film – Leading Young Actor. Kevin spacey (Eugene Simonet) was nominated for the Blockbuster Entertainment Awards Favorite Actor – Drama/Romance, and Helen Hunt (Arlene McKinney) was nominated for the Blockbuster Entertainment Awards Favorite Actress – Drama/Romance (Awards, 2001). ”