Ramin Bahrani has officially reached the pinnacle of independent film making. After previous successes with Man Push Cart and Chop Shop his craft has been ever evolving – and at a fast pace as well. He’s also slowly developing a knack for dialogue; his first feature was primarily quiet, his second had a fair amount of dialogue, but in this piece it’s almost entirely chummy.
Once in awhile a film comes along that looks the part of a typical genre piece, but upon viewing the entire work it exceeds all prior expectations and assumptions. Goodbye Solo is that film.
The story revolves around Solo (genuinely and charismatically played by Souleymane Sy Savane), an African that’s lived in America for three years as a cab driver. With a large family back home, he does this job for their benefit, while trying to obtain his dream job of airplane pilot. The first time we meet Solo, he’s driving a man to a small-time cinema. His name is William (Red West – another genuine and charismatic performance) and he wants to go to Blowing Rock on October 20th. He asks Solo to take him there for 1000 dollars, Solo is baffled and only assumes the worse. The earnest, caring man pleas and jokes around with William hoping that he’ll change his mind, but it’s clear that it’ll be a lot more work.
Solo becomes attached to William, being his only friend in the world, taking care of him and doing everything in his power to protect him and make him more optimistic about life. From giving him his cell phone and calling him “a preferred client” at the beginning to moving in with him and doing his laundry at the peak of their friendship, Solo is on a singular mission – even with a curious 9 year old step-daughter and a pregnant wife at home.
The two things I admire most about this movie are the contrasting main characters and the idealistic symbols that help the main theme of the film thrive without becoming tedious. First, the contrasting characters. As you may have already seen in the trailers, Solo is a genuine African in his early 30’s. He is mainly associated with people of black race; speaks many different African languages; and is loud and brash, with a pinch of enlightenment. His caring and appreciative outlook on life mismatches beautifully with William’s secretive and annoyed one. However, one thing they have in common are the prideful and sincere natures that keep them on some sort of level as to not argue with every encounter. Second, the symbolic subtleties. Mr. Bahrani focuses primarily on the innocence of man and the depression that the same old tiring and mundane routine brings on. Every character you meet experiences a loathing for their occupation in some way, shape or form – and if it isn’t verbally apparent, you can tell by the depressed auras they evoke. It’s painful to watch, but honest and humble tribute to the working man that isn’t stuffed sporadically into a feature for some illogical reason.
Without a soundtrack and vast beautiful landscapes to create an aesthetically pleasing product, the film solely relies on connecting with its viewer. Not once does the film condescend and that is a breath of fresh air from the independent mainstream. Solo is the most divine and lovable film character to grace screens in a very long time (even including Sally Hawkins in Happy-Go-Lucky) and I can assure that you’ll never want to say Goodbye Solo.