Goodbye Solo

Goodbye Solo

2009, NR, 91 min. Directed by Ramin Bahrani. Starring Souléymane Sy Savané, Red West, Dian Franco Galindo, Carmen Leyva, Lane "Roc" Williams, Mamadou Lam.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., May 8, 2009

Here's the thing: I'm excited about the new Star Trek, too. But Star Trek isn't going anywhere, and, without a doubt, Bahrani's small marvel of a film will be muscled out of theatres before its time is due. An American portraitist working in the same scope (but with more hope) as Wendy and Lucy’s Kelly Reichardt, Bahrani has made three films in four years, all of them critically acclaimed if underseen, and in 2008 he won the prestigious Someone to Watch Independent Spirit Award. Goodbye Solo – which continues the vehicular thread of his previous films, Man Push Cart and Chop Shop – tells the North Carolina-set story of the brief bond that forms between a Senegalese cab driver named Solo (Savané) and his frequent passenger, 70-year-old William (West, a former stunt actor and one of Elvis Presley's longtime bodyguards). The opening unbroken two-shot quietly commands attention: Solo at the wheel, cracking jokes over the hum of the cab dispatch, and sullen William in the back, resisting Solo's attempts at camaraderie. William wants to pay Solo $1,000 to drive him in two weeks' time to Blowing Rock off the Blue Ridge Parkway: a one-way trip, or the proverbial long walk off a short pier. Solo initially balks, but it's good money – he has a wife, a stepdaughter, and a baby on the way to think of – so he agrees to the trip. But in that two weeks, Solo goes about inserting himself into William's life, forcing a connection with a man who resists openness and intimacy at every turn. There are simply no wrong beats in this largehearted examination of human curiosity and kindness and the limits of both when it comes to our influence on others. Bahrani and co-writer Bahareh Azimi haven't underscripted the film by any means, but what's most remarkable about Goodbye Solo is what it achieves without words – how it illustrates Solo, normally a cheerful motor-mouth, silently grappling with mental anguish. (Savané, in his feature film debut, is terrific, his stubborn strong-arming cushioned by an infectious smile.) Cinematographer Michael Simmonds knows how to shoot the actors' faces to maximum effect, and he lenses the industrial brick and sunrise/sunset of Bahrani's native Winston-Salem and the foggy, fall-colored Blue Ridge Mountains with equal loveliness – a loveliness that should be seen on the big screen and preferably as soon as possible.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Ramin Bahrani Films
99 Homes
Orlando real-estate drama is a microcosm of the U.S. financial crisis

Marc Savlov, Oct. 9, 2015

Man Push Cart
A small gem of a film about a small man doing small things in a very, very, very large world.

Marc Savlov, Jan. 5, 2007

More by Kimberley Jones
We Have an Issue: Guns Among Us
We Have an Issue: Guns Among Us
In this week’s issue, we report on a deadly confrontation Downtown, and the newly released footage of the Michael Ramos shooting

July 31, 2020

We Have an Issue: Welcome to the Drinks Issue
We Have an Issue: Welcome to the Drinks Issue
Who needs a drink?

July 24, 2020

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Goodbye Solo, Ramin Bahrani, Souléymane Sy Savané, Red West, Dian Franco Galindo, Carmen Leyva, Lane "Roc" Williams, Mamadou Lam

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle