Tuesday, September 1, 2009

GOODBYE SOLO (Rahmin Bahrani, 2008, USA)


A young cab driver seeks a better life for himself and his family but a renegade old man threatens to upset his worldview; driven towards a nihilistic summit whose crescendo is an ethereal howl. Director Ramin Bahrani’s re-modernist style eschews the traditional Independent Film clichés, transcending what has now become the Sundance Syndrome where cutesy stories are bathed in bright colors and always lead to some vapidly emotional climax…but are pretty to watch. 

The film opens without credits and immediately introduces the narrative discord, as Solo an immigrant cab driver leads Williams, whose hard life is etched upon his stony face, towards a final solution. From this verbal sparring, these two disparate characters begin to develop a rapport even though a deep cultural and philosophical abyss divides them. William is like Edvard Munch’s The Scream, a person overwhelmed by some natural force who implodes while Solo is a family man, surrounded by people he loves but also spiritually alone: they have more in common than either will ever admit. As Solo attempts to save William from his suicidal program, his own life begins to degenerate and dissolve while William remains fixated upon his fate. Bahrani gives a few visual clues to meet audience expectations then corrupts these ideas with honest and brutal reality, never giving us the answer we desire …because sometimes truth is never discovered and when it is, it rarely makes sense. We are focused upon Solo and his obvious need to save William, to convince him that life is worth living, while his own life loses value and a sense of dreaded anxiety settles upon his life: Solo is soon solo, a man who leaves his pregnant wife and step-child so he can find himself. We see Solo’s experiences through a glass darkly, a mirror of William’s life, a man who has abandoned his own family though he still loves his son very much: a teenage son who has never known his father. 

This small film is large in emotional complexity, never explaining too much or descending into melodrama. Solo is the empathetic thread that Bahrani has weaved into this celluloid tapestry, William is nasty and often difficult to like but we are never allowed insight into the deep recess of his guilt and anxiety. Finally, Solo makes the decision to drive William towards his fatal destination, tendrils of fog creeping like a hangover through the Autumnal forest, and they both find their answer blowin’ in the wind. 

Final Grade: (B+)