JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Goodbye Solo (Director: Ramin Bahrani) - October 31, 2010

Goodbye Solo

4.5 4.5
91 min.

Also reviewed for the 2019 edition of the Palm Springs International Film Festival
A marvel of pathos and pace

How refreshing it is to discover a film that lets its narrative unwind piece by delicate piece—in no hurry to complete back-story, fully develop character or dash ahead to the climax.

In many ways, a good deal of satisfaction and understanding could be experienced with the sound completely off. Director Ramin Bahrani (who co-wrote the screenplay with Bahareh Azimi) has wisely opted for many long close-ups of the two men whose lives intertwine while both are dealing with personal issues that seem to defy solutions.

Cabbie Solo (Souléymane Sy Savané demonstrates a marvellous ability for understatement as his customer-service-friendly persona barely masks the turmoil that surrounds his choices at home, work and play) gradually becomes the driver of choice for an older man who seems intent on leaving the planet on his own terms and timetable.

Veteran Red West plays William (whose taste in music, booze, food and cigarettes appears to be much more of a “Bill”—just one of many puzzles left to the audience’s imagination along the trail to Blowing Rock, North Carolina) with an effective mix of irascibility and tenderness.

The rest of the cast serves little more purpose than providing bits of storylines (second wife Quiera—Carmen Leyva—is pregnant by Solo; step-daughter Alex—Diana Franco Galindo—has no trouble adapting when Dad moves out for a spell) and backdrops for the scenes.

There are several shots reminiscent of Jamie Foxx and Tom Cruise in Collateral as the two men begin to learn each others’ secrets while held captive in the cab. There is also the possibility of a falling body working its way into the plot, but, once again, viewers have to do the heavy lifting for themselves.

Michael Simmonds’ cinematography deftly sets the tone and captures the mood: the magnificent fall colours and deliciously dense fog are beautifully and wordlessly at one with the final moments; the visages of the two troubled souls courageously fill the screen with mute emotion for enough time to let the audience slip into their thoughts and try to discover the underlying motivation for the principals’ life-altering decisions.

M. Lo’s original music—and a generous helping of mood-setting songs from rap to country—keeps the ear happily engaged between the more reflective intermezzi.

The powerful finish readily trumps the few bits of contrived actions (a sudden passion for ice cream rings false) even as the line “Who has seen the wind?” comes immediately to mind.

As the cab vanishes out of frame, the similar, much earlier tableau of a single-engine airplane taking flight gives the perfect visual payoff that those still in search of their dreams or stoically resigned with their lot will instantly understand and savour. JWR

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Director - Ramin Bahrani
Cinematography - Michael Simmonds
Production Design - Chad Keith
Original Music - M. Lo
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