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On the lonely roads of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, two men forge an improbable friendship that will change both of their lives forever. Solo is a Senegalese cab driver working to provide a better life for his young family. William is a tough Southern good ol' boy with a lifetime of regrets. One man's American dream is just beginning, while the other's is quickly winding down. But despite their differences, both men soon realize they need each other more than either is willing to admit. Through this unlikely but unforgettable friendship, GOODBYE SOLO deftly explores the passing of a generation as well as the rapidly changing face of America. Written by
The protagonist's taxi is shown on the Linville Viaduct. This is not on the route between Blowing Rock and Winston-Salem. See more »
Why you laughing?
I'm not laughing just now.
No, No! You told me it would cost $200. Well I'll give you a thousand, to take me out there on October 20th.
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Two men are in a taxicab. The passenger is a scowling, angry, misanthropic old man. The cabbie is a smiling, exuberant African immigrant. In a few lines of dialogue we learn that the misanthrope wants to be taken to Blowing Rock, North Carolina on the 20th of the month. "Why?" jokes the cabbie, "You gonna jump off?" No reply. The cabbie's glowing smile disappears.
The poetry of that opening scene is only rivaled by its ability to set a powerful air of suspense that carries through the entire 91-minute film all the way until the last minute. And even though there aren't any flashy car chases, shootouts, steamy sex scenes or fantastical plot twists, "Goodbye Solo" grabs your full attention from start to finish.
The theme, beautifully set in the opening scene & fleshed out as the story progresses, centers around the duality of the American dream and the American nightmare. The cabbie, relatively new to the USA, loves life and the endless opportunities life presents. He has a job and a family, neither of which are perfect, but they make him happy nonetheless. And he genuinely loves people. The old man is bitter, alone, presumably due to a tragic family meltdown, and he just wants to be left alone. Just as the cabbie is exploring new opportunities, the old man spends his days tying up loose ends: selling his home, closing out his bank accounts, etc. Over the course of 2 weeks or so, we witness the interaction--the philosophical struggle--between these two men, and the suspense of the outcome is maintained until the film's final scene.
The acting is absolutely 1st class with both men, particularly by the main character "Solo" played by Souléymane Sy Savane in his feature debut. His way of portraying raw optimism and hope is truly worthy of the description Roger Ebert used: "a force of nature". At the same time, it's not over-the-top unbelievable like Pollyanna or some children's fantasy character. He plays an intelligent man fully aware of the struggles in life, yet he has faith in his own determination. And isn't that the key to happiness for all of us? The old man character is the antithesis and equally believable. If you've ever suffered a horrible tragedy you know that sometimes nothing can cut through. Nothing. And that's what we see here: a man so resolute in his cynicism that you'd give up on him in 10 seconds.
And so, we see the cinematic version of the age-old physics puzzle: what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?
The movie takes a quiet, measured pace with plenty of room to breathe. There are gorgeous shots of nature as well as equally haunting views of an empty downtown Winston-Salem at night. Funny, I've driven through that city scores of times on I-95 without giving it a second thought. But next time I think I'll take a small detour and visit. I also need to see this place called Blowing Rock to find out if it's real. The view from up there looks like something Count Dracula would see looking out over the misty mountains of Transylvania.
There aren't many popular films to compare this to, but I'd say if you liked the British film "Happy Go-Lucky" or the indie film "This Is Martin Bonner" or the Japanese "Shiki-Jitsu" (Ritual) or even Kurosawa's cinematic masterpiece "Ikiru" (To Live), then don't hesitate to see "Goodbye Solo".
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