In 2005, Steve Lopez (Robert Downey, Jr.) is a journalist working for the L.A. Times. He is divorced and now works for his ex-wife, Mary (Catherine Keener), an editor. A biking accident lands Lopez in a hospital.One day, he hears a violin being played beautifully. Investigating, he encounters Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx), a homeless schizophrenic, who continues to bother Lopez until he introduces himself. During the conversation that follows, Lopez learns that Ayers once attended Juilliard. Curious as to how a former student of such a prestigious school ended up on the streets, Lopez contacts Juilliard but learns that no record of Ayers graduating from it exists. Though at first figuring a schizophrenic who's talented with a violin isn't worth his time, Lopez soon realizes that he has no better story to write about. Luckily, he soon learns that Ayers did attend Juilliard, but dropped out after two years.