Next story: The Soloist
Goodbye Solo doesn’t waste much time getting to its premise; virtually none, in fact. A young, black, obviously foreign-born cabbie is offered $1,000 by his older white fare (Red West)—with a $100 down payment—to drive him to a mountaintop outside Winston-Salem, South Carolina in several weeks and leave him there.
Solo (Souleymane Sy Savane) is immediately suspicious about this guy’s purpose and only reluctantly agrees, mainly to keep him from making the same offer to another driver. From this unlikely, almost whimsical plot device, director and co-writer Ramin Bahrani’s appealing little movie proceeds with surprising success.
Solo, an energetically friendly sort, sets about inveigling his way into William’s life, trying to draw him out, making efforts to learn something about this brusquely taciturn man of about 70, with inconsistent, sometimes frustrating results.
Goodbye Solo has been meeting with a good reception on the festival circuit this year, and it’s not difficult to understand why. It’s a spirited and warm, but often shrewdly reticent work that seems, for much of its length, about to become an oddball buddy movie, but never quite does.
Solo, a Senegalese immigrant, is impressively interpreted by Bahrani and Savane as an ebulliently optimistic man with dreams of American success as a flight attendant. He’s manipulatively well intentioned, even a bit of a hustler, but not a superficial sort. He may care too much about others for his own good. Savane makes this outsize character increasingly sympathetic and worthy of respect. At several junctures, Bahrani focuses his camera on Solo as he sits silently, in ruminative repose, a fleeting melancholy shading his lean face.
William never becomes much more than a notional creation and the movie’s resolution is likely to strike you as either gravely poignant or an overreaching contrivance, but you’re likely to get gently sucked into this movie before its endgame.
Watch the trailer for Goodbye Solo
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Issue Navigation> Issue Index > v8n17 (Week of Thursday, April 23, 2009) > Film Reviews > Goodbye Solo
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