Cinema: Paying It Forward

Three gifted performers star in a parable about goodness multiplied. How an unexpected act of anonymous heroism inspired the eagerly anticipated film

It all started 23 years ago. A young writer, Catherine Ryan Hyde, was driving home late one night in a disreputable section of Los Angeles when her aging Datsun stalled and started spewing smoke. She leaped out, away from danger, only to see two guys running at her with a blanket. Visions of muggings danced in her head. As she now recalls, "It did not occur to me that this was the good news."

Her car, it turns out, was on fire, burning along the throttle line. It could have exploded and killed her. Instead, some Good Samaritan called the...

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