Autumn 2009 Features series
Sunday, November 22, 2009 at 4:00pm
Sunday, November 22, 2009 at 7:00pm
Directed by Ramin Bahrani
Screenplay by Bahareh Azimi and Ramin Bahrani
Starring Souléymane Sy Savané, Red West, Diana Franco Galindo, Carmen Leyva
Rated 14A ·
English, French and Wolof
Goodbye Solo is a rare cinematic gem. Even within the idiosyncratic world of American independent cinema, its director, Ramin Bahrani, stands out. Much like his earlier works, the highly lauded Man Push Cart and Chop Shop, Bahrani’s third feature, Goodbye Solo, uses perfectly cast actors and concentrates the action in a specific geographical place. However, Goodbye Solo exhibits an artistic growth and thematic maturation, yielding an unusually rewarding experience for the viewer.
Followers of Bahrani’s work know that he immerses us into the lives of his characters with little ceremony, and Goodbye Solo is no different. In the first moment of the film, we find ourselves inside a cab driven by Solo (Souléymane Sy Savané), a Senegalese taxi driver living in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. His passenger is seventy-year-old William (Red West), who books Solo to pick him up again two weeks hence for a long drive to a faraway mountaintop. Over the course of their negotiation, Solo comes to understand that William has a tragic plan for the end of his trip, and decides to befriend the man and dissuade him from his goal.
Solo is one of the most remarkable characters in recent cinema. He is good through and through, and lacks the North American self-consciousness about relationships. He believes that everyone should be engaged and concerned with one another. This “it takes a village” approach to life is anathema to William, who harbours pain, secrets and a desire for privacy, all of which keep him at odds with Solo.
Given the freshness and candour of the dialogue, it is hard to believe that Goodbye Solo followed a script. Much credit should be given to co-writers Bahrani and Bahareh Azimi for the creation of a story so graciously nuanced and complex.
As William, West asks little of us but to witness, and as Solo, Savané shows us shadow, light, love and manhood with a natural charisma that fills the screen. With the aid of these extraordinary performances, Bahrani succeeds in his ultimate goal: delving deeply into the lives of his characters, he shows us ourselves.