Goodbye Solo (Roadside Attractions, NR)

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goodbyesolo1.jpgGoodbye Solo begins mid-cab drive. Solo laughs, unable to believe what William has just told him; we don’t hear what was said but it involved a proposition William’s made for Solo to drive him to a specific location on a specific date.

 

 

 

 

 

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In Goodbye Solo, a cranky, old white dude named William (Red West) finds his life infiltrated by a chatty Senegalese cab driver named Solo (Souleymane Sy Savane), and “an unlikely friendship” blossoms. By all counts, this shouldn’t sound like a good film by anyone other than a person who truly thought Driving Miss Daisy was the best film of 1989 (and had been yearning for an update). However, writer/director Ramin Bahrani (Chop Shop, Man Push Cart) has an uncanny gift for finding something curiously profound in an all-too-familiar “odd couple” setup.

Very few directors working today can handle such delicate and/or stale material and turn it into something meaningful. In Man Push Cart, Bahrani crafted an eloquent portrait of a musician, popular in his native country of Pakistan, striving to make ends meet working in his own coffee cart in New York City. In Goodbye Solo, the title figuratively suggests his own artistic shift, from the dialogue-scarce singularity of Man Push Cart to more interpersonal relationships in Chop Shop, which concerns a young orphan and his teenage sister, and now Goodbye Solo. More than in-your-face directors like Spike Lee or ham-fisted ones like Paul Haggis, Bahrani gives a depiction of melting-pot America that is seamless (and subtle).

Goodbye Solo begins mid-cab drive. Solo laughs, unable to believe what William has just told him; we don’t hear what was said but it involved a proposition William’s made for Solo to drive him to a specific location on a specific date. “You’re not going to jump off a cliff?” Solo asks. William is silent. It’s in this moment where Solo makes the conscious decision to become a part of William’s life, despite the old man’s grumbling. Bahrani doesn’t explain to us why Solo feels obliged to look after the possibly suicidal man, but it seems to be for the expected reasons: He’s fixing the problems of someone else’s life because he can’t work out his own.

There’s no way to describe the plot details of Goodbye Solo without making it sound like less of a film than it actually is. Bahrani evades the squirm-inducing bathos of its foundation with a sincere depth in meaning and character. All of the late revelations of the film sound irritatingly calculated, and yet in his pacing of the film, which veers away from maudlin potholes, and through his actors, all of whom are astounding, Goodbye Solo emerges as a bittersweet magnum opus for one of the few talented voices in true American independent cinema’s specialized talents. | Joe Bowman
 

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