Goodbye Solo
How is it that you get a smoke break and I’m stuck reading the script?

Golden Mug

Best Picture
Original Screenplay (Bahareh Azimi & Ramin Bahrani)

Theatrical Release Date: 03/27/2009
Director: Ramin Bahrani
Cast: Souleymane Sy Savane, Red West, Diana Franco Galindo, Lane ‘Roc’ Williams, Mamadou Lam, Carmen Leyva

Once again, it’s time to put the word out on a little film that didn’t get much notice when it was released but is readily available on DVD for those film fanatics out there looking for a quality production, amidst all the often over-hyped awards season fare.

“Goodbye Solo”, from director/co-writer Ramin Bahrani, revolves around the title character Solo, a Senegalese cab driver (Souleymane Sy Savane), juggling a family, his job and his dream of becoming a flight attendant. William (Red West) has decided that the world would be better off without him and hires Solo to take a drive to a well-known lookout point at a national park in a few days. The film unfolds over those few days, as Solo and William befriend and teach one another about their lives. Solo does so willingly and with a real need to find a friend as well as with hopes of stopping William. William goes along with things because he can see Solo could use some of his help and advice but is resistant to Solo’s meddling in his personal life, to the causes of his sadness.

The two leads do a fantastic job here. Solo is a man who is anything but one note. While he is upbeat for his passengers, there’s also a burning desire within him to fulfill the ‘American Dream’ and become a better provider for his family. Savane not only handles the caretaker archetype so integral to the part but injects the character with an infectious zeal for life and people. He truly enjoys talking with people and discovering the reason for their journeys in his cab, not just the destination – which is analogous to the film’s central message.

Red West is to be equally commended for his portrayal of William. The character is a curmudgeon and rock hard on the outside but once Solo cracks that exterior, a raw and volatile vulnerability lies underneath. West captures all of this not only through his dialogue but with a number of non-verbal actions that say just as much. You can see that his mind is racing at a million miles a minute, even when he’s just sitting still and taking a drag from a cigarette.

One of the most beautiful elements to their discovery of one another is to see how such diametrically opposed people can form such a profound relationship. Circumstance and Solo’s indefatigable love of people force the issue though and between the excellent acting performances and a well-written script, the film elevates itself to among the very best of 2009.

Another aspect that drew this film closer to my heart is that it’s set in one of my favorite states, North Carolina. Oddly enough, there’s something about the energy of the area that seems to translate on film. Like two of my favorite films from the past decade, “All the Real Girls” and “Junebug”, “Goodbye Solo” takes advantage of the state’s beauty and seemingly unique light quality, allowing it to add an extra layer of texture to the film as a whole.

My only knock on the film is that it lags a bit in the middle, but the strong acting performances and truly touching story more than make that a non-issue. If you are a fan of independent film, “Goodbye Solo” is a must see and gets a 4.5 out of 5. I wish it had made a bigger splash when it came to the Independent Spirit Awards nominations (nods for best male lead (Savane) and the Producer’s Award) but hopefully a few of you out there will discover this little gem thanks to my scribblings and then pass the word on.