In The Saint of Fort Washington, Danny Glover plays Jerry, a Vietnam veteran who is homeless after being swindled by his business partner. He dreams of getting back on his feet with an apartment and a job selling fruit and vegetables. Jerry shares his dream with a homeless schizophrenic named Matthew, played by Matt Dillon. He's a Bronx-born photographer whose apartment building has been demolished.
Together, they begin earning money by cleaning the windshields of cars stuck in New York City traffic. After a violent thief harasses Matthew at the Fort Washington Shelter for the Homeless, they spend their nights in an abandoned van, on the subways, and in a tenement building.
This heart-affecting film written by Lyle Kessler and directed by Tim Hunter conveys the isolation, frustration, and vulnerability of these homeless men. It also celebrates their resourcefulness as they struggle to survive on the mean streets. Jerry builds up Matthew's wounded self-esteem by believing in him. The young man has a therapeutic touch that works wonders on Jerry's schrapnel-scarred knee.
But no one is there to help them out when they need it most. Cops compel them to return to the hellish city-operated shelter, and the owners of the cars whose windows they wash are indifferent to their fate. "Hey, thanks a lot," Jerry says sarcastically to one obviously nervous driver, "This is your world, we just live in it."
In his book The Needs of Strangers, Michael Ignatieff noted, "Beneath the duties which tie us to individuals, there ought to be a duty that ties us to all men." Sadly, those ties are lacking in our society and individuals like Jerry and Matthew have no other choice than to take care of each other. The magic moments when they do make up the heart and soul of The Saint of Fort Washington.