Goodbye Solo

Nothing to do with Han…This is a small independent movie by Ramin Bahrani.  Set in a small town in the US, Solo a Senegalese immigrant taxi driver picks up William, a gruff old passenger.  On their journey, William offers Solo $1000 to pick him up on 20th October and take him to Blowing Rock, a well known viewing point, high in the mountains.

Solo is a naturally curious and engaging person, keen to find common ground with William and intrigued as to the mystery around the $1000 job.  What follows is a tender story of burgeoning friendship, as Solo gradually involves himself in William’s life and, in turn involves William in his.

To me, it is a story about life and how different people can view their own lives and other’s from different perspectives.

Solo is magnificently played by Souleymane Sy Savane.  His part is underplayed and realistic: although essentially an extremely gregarious character, Souleymane does not play the part in a highly energised manner that other actors may have done (I saw the antithesis of this approach in a recent film on TV called Sugarhouse, where all 3 main leads were chewing scenery throughout).  It is hard to believe that this is Souleymane’s first acting role in a movie and I have high hopes that further parts will come his way.  The characterisation of Solo is layered neatly and his optimism is presented through simple scenarios and comments, rather than grandiose gestures.

William’s character is much more difficult to fathom, as for much of the movie, he is a real enigma.  Played by Red West (a one time member of Presley’s Memphis Mafia), I felt that his characterisation suffered for Red’s appearance.  Red West is an extreme example of a grizzled old cowboy, which, in some respects, works quite well and in others makes his face near impossible to read.  This may have been the intention of the director, as once again a character that could so easily be played with high energy is actually played with quiet authority and the inability to read the emotion may have been used to enhance how William tries to keep Solo at arms length.

Ramin Bahrani directs with subtlety and lets the situations play out easily.  Occasionally the shots appear a little arty, but these offer good contrast to the mundane small town happenings that otherwise fill the screen.  Bahrani does capture moments of small town America (I speak having travelled through a few) brilliantly which helps to keep the story grounded in reality.

The result is a quite beautiful little character driven story that keeps you interested through to the end and beyond as you ponder what would have happened next.  Although unlikely to stand up to repeated viewings, there’s enough there to make it worth the rental.

My Rating: 3/5

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