Published May 28, 2009It's a familiar premise: two strangers meet under odd circumstance, bearing diametrically opposed attitudes, only to gradually learn of shared struggles, alienation and resignation. But rarely has it been done in such a natural and unobtrusive manner, avoiding the seemingly requisite irony, condescension and decided bemusement. What comes from Goodbye Solo isn't simply a lesson in getting along and looking beyond the surface, rather it's a tapestry tackling the dilemma of how we get by without hope.
In North Carolina, William (Red West), a man of roughly his 70s, steps into the cab of Solo (Souleymane Sy Savane), an African immigrant with dreams of becoming a flight attendant and offers 1,000 dollars to be driven, in ten days, to Blowing Rock National Park at the top of a mountain. No mention is made of a return trip.
Ever the optimist in the face of adversity, Solo spends the next ten days prior to the trip picking up William whenever he needs a cab, offering protection, advice and good cheer. Meanwhile, Solo deals with a wife (Carmen Leyva) whose constant pessimism and admonishment of idle dreams threaten to break his spirit regardless of the joy and pride he has in his stepdaughter Alex (Diana Franco Galindo).
Handled with a deliberate documentary style realism, the unlikely pair aren't reduced to archetypes, with a pissed off and suicidal William showing signs of development beyond that of a Clint Eastwood cliché, and Solo having a humanity and fragility beyond that of a typically exotic comic curiosity. Yes, these men learn from each other and are deepened by their connection, but it's their personal fumbling towards catharsis that distinguishes them, and the film.
This is a classic simultaneously simple and complex movie about triumph, resignation, fatality and moving forward. There are no CGI time warps or inexplicably swollen extremities, just a couple of alienated people trying to make sense of the senseless. (E1)