RAMIN BAHRANI’S GOODBYE SOLO — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Ramin Bahrani’s Goodbye Solo is a quietly powerful film with two absolutely astonishing performances from its leads. Bahrani, who also directed the excellent Chop Shop, Man Push Cart, and the underrated At Any Price, currently has a new film out in limited release called 99 Homes, which centers on the financial crisis and home mortgage disaster of 2008. He’s interested in social commentary and human-scaled dramas which can thematically speak to anyone, a naturalist filmmaker with a style similar to Kelly Reichardt (Old Joy, Meek’s Cutoff, Wendy and Lucy, Night Moves), utilizing a deliberately slow pace, simple but effective camera set ups, limited artificial musical score, a noticeable lack of showy lighting techniques, all in an effort to achieve slow-burn and honest to the core dramatics. Goodbye Solo is about a North Carolina cab driver named Solo (the amazing Souleymane Sy Savane), a Senegalese immigrant, whose girlfriend is about to have a baby. One day, an old, sad looking man named William (Red West, incredible) gets in his cab and makes him an ominous offer: In one week, for $1000 cash, Solo will drive William to the highest point at a nearby mountain range, drop him off, and never look back. What develops over that week is an unlikely but exceptionally moving friendship between the two vastly different men. Bahrani’s emotionally taxing screenplay gives West and Savane some powerful scenes to play off of each other, with a finale that is perfectly understated but deeply felt. I was taken back by the honest and natural performances of both West and Savane, and probably because I wasn’t familiar with them before seeing the film, I was able to become invested in a way that might not have occurred had more baggage-laden talent been given the two roles. West is a guy who has been doing bit parts in movies for years (his personal story is fascinating…do a google search…) and he’s got one of those made-for-the-cinema faces that dispenses with back-story without the necessity for words. It’s a face that’s seen too much throughout the years, and because of West’s grizzled look and feel, he brings a level of intensity to William that remains present throughout the entire picture. Savane is the perfect antidote to West’s hardness; Solo could give Happy-Go-Lucky’s Poppy Montgomery a run for her money in the eternally optimistic sweepstakes. Always trying to help, always thinking with his heart (when sometimes he should be thinking more with his head), Solo is determined not to let William do himself in, even if it means sacrificing things that he holds dear. Bahrani was hailed by the late Roger Ebert as “America’s next great filmmaker” and it’s not hard to see why. He’s been making important, under the radar work for years now, and it’s time that he gets the full-on attention he deserves. If you’re not familiar with his work, I urge you to get acquainted. Goodbye Solo is a great film, one that will make you think long after you’ve finished watching.

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