Goodbye Solo (2008) Poster


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The essence of compassion, given freely with an open heart
howard.schumann15 June 2009
Some people are so attached to their story that they manage to continually sabotage their aliveness and their capacity for love. Even when someone reaches out to them and challenges the skewed way in which they have constructed their world, they effectively shut them out. Ramin Bahrani's third feature, Goodbye Solo, is about William, a man clinging to his victimization act so tightly that he turns away from the only person who cares, a high-energy cab driver from Senegal who is willing to go the extra mile to tear down the wall that separates William from his fellow human beings.

Similar in narrative to Abbas Kiarostami's masterpiece A Taste of Cherry, Solo (Souléymane Sy Savané) a Senegalese immigrant living in Winston Salem, North Carolina (where the director grew up) picks up a 72-year-old Caucasian passenger named William, played by Red West, a former Marine, stuntman, boxer, and bodyguard for Elvis Presley, who Solo refers to as "Big Dog". We learn next to nothing about the cantankerous old man. He refuses to engage the gregarious Solo in conversation except to offer him $1000 to drive him to Blowing Rock, a windy mountainous area, in two weeks with the depressing implication that it will be the end of the road for him, both literally and figuratively.

Similar in theme to Mike Leigh's Poppy in Happy-Go-Lucky, Solo does not back off from his selfless display of good humor even when confronted by William's cold rejection. He maintains his optimism when studying for an exam to become a flight attendant. Solo knows where to find drugs or a sexual partner but there is no hint that he ever partakes. Eventually some of his positive attitude begins to break down barriers. William helps Solo in his studying, and allows him to move into his motel room when he runs into marital difficulties with his pregnant Mexican wife (Carmen Leyva). They go out drinking together, Solo introduces him to his stepdaughter Alex (Diana Franco Galindo), does his laundry for him, checks his medicine stash to see if he has some hidden terminal illness, and even searches the motel room to try and find a picture of a relative he could contact.

Gradually the two men appear to draw closer, at times showing moments of connection, and then falling back into uncertainty and rejection. Solo still searches for the clue that can prevent the inevitable, even going so far as to find out why William continually attends a local movie theater and engages in conversation with the young cashier at the box office. Bahrani's Solo is not a stereotype of the cool hip black man out to rescue the forlorn white man from himself. Solo is a multi-faceted human being with his own set of problems who is always depicted with respect. The finale, shot in the beautiful North Carolina Mountains in October, captures the stirring symphony of autumn color, and the long look that William and Solo give each other before they part is the essence of compassion, given freely with an open heart - even to the point when no payback is achieved or expected.
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The American Dream vs. the American Nightmare
rooprect6 November 2014
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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Tense and Beautiful
jdesando24 May 2009
"The basis of optimism is sheer terror." Oscar Wilde

The two improbable "travelers" in Patrice Leconte's Man on the Train seem like old men at a nursing home compared to the dynamic layers of regret and hope between Senegalese cab driver Solo (Souleymane Sy Savane) and grizzled old man William (Red West)in Goodbye Solo. Solo takes him on several rides in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, culminating in a life-changing one in the Smokey Mountains.

This tense little drama of ordinary people has a distant relationship to Beckett and Pinter, whose dramas introduce unknown forces and people who change things, even if those elements don't appear. Iranian director/writer Ramin Bahrani, along with co-writer Bahareh Azimi, has neatly shown the quotidian events of Solo's life, from the joys of a loving step-daughter and new son to strain of trying to become a flight attendant. Upon the entrance of the troubled William into his life, Solo deals with his urge to help William overcome depression and disappointment and Solo's own existential uncertainties.

Goodbye SOlo has large ambitions about showing the need to understand the end of life for the desperately disappointed and the beginning of a happy life for the positive, optimistic newcomers in the great melting pot. Solo remains hopeful in both arenas despite the forces allied against him, finding strength in his alliance with William just as characters in Beckett and Pinter find theirs.

The coda is as impressive as any other this year: the top of one of the North Carolina hills is circumscribed by an eccentric wind that seems to blow up and back at the same time, figuratively signaling the end and beginning. Solo and step-daughter Alex take comfort in the danger of the wind and precipice adjoining the safety of each other.

The message is clear—life goes on, sometimes dangerously, sometimes beautifully.
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Off the Meter
fnorful22 May 2009
I saw this in the "Someone to Watch" and "American Independents" sidebars at the 33rd Cleveland International Film Festival.

Ramin Bahrani's work improves dramatically with this story of a Senegalese cab driver trying to make a life in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The story arc of his relationship with William, a fare who contracts for a one-way ride a couple of weeks in the future is well-drawn and quite satisfying. All of the prime relationships in this story are deftly developed: Solo's quest to "save" William (from what is clearly a suicide trip), Solo's efforts at providing for his second family (with concomitant tension from Wife #2), the effect of step-daughter (?) Alex on William, William's mystery relationship to the young man selling tickets at the local multi-plex.

The film was excellent technically. Bahrani likes "dark", yet the framing and focus provide for a nice intimacy with the characters. The "money" scene at the end (not giving away the plot here!) is beautifully framed, raw, elemental, vertigo-inducing without looking down.

Having not liked Man Push Cart (his first film) I feel that with this movie I have found a middle ground with Bahrani: I cared about the characters and I was told a story. But Bahrani likes mystery. And here there is a lot of mystery, very satisfying mystery. Worth seeing twice (which I did!).
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A magical ride
jsmith148027 March 2009
Souleyman Savane is a natural. His taxi driver character is the focus of the film and in spite of Savane's complete lack of acting experience he carries the movie with his beautiful, expressive face and the warmth, goodness and simple joie de vivre of his character's nature and, one suspects, Mr. Savane's.

The scenes of unexceptional small city life match up right for this story and the scenes toward the end in the Great Smokies are almost as transcendent as they are in person.

At 90 minutes it is the perfect length for a movie whose central predicament is made plain from the start and it's resolution never really in doubt. An understandable determination to die by one man inspires renewal in another.
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Best film I saw at Toronto Film Festival
rb545rd21 September 2008
Without a doubt this was the best film I saw at the Toronto Film Festival. My girlfriend and I decided to make a trip up there for a few days to see some films, enjoy the city and catch Niagara Falls. We saw some good films, and some not-so-good films, but most of them were good... but none of them captivated us like Goodbye Solo. It was on our short list because we had seen and really liked Chop Shop-- by the same director. This one is even better. The lead actor is just amazing!! This guy is going to win some awards. He is so charming that you can't help but want to watch everything he does. The whole audience was laughing for like the first half of the film because him and the old man - the big dawg! - are just so funny together and the things they say and do together are just great... but it was the ending that really got us. My girlfriend was crying. So were a lot of people around us... And the last shots are really beautiful. I don't know where they filmed it, but the location was amazing. The mountain and the trees and fog... it was just amazing how the filmed those colors and fog, like it wasn't real or something. The film really, really moved us and stayed with us for the rest of our trip and we talked about it a lot on our drive home. Solo changed so much in the film... that guy is a great actor. We will see it again when it comes out for sure.
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My compassion muscle was exercised
jeff_ginsburg16 April 2009
Solo was a relentlessly optimistic character, regardless of the setback, he rebounded immediately. Or, he brought himself back to a sunny state by a deep and touching effort that was illuminated with care and beauty. The older man, William, on the otherhand, worked hard to maintain his life-has-beaten-me-down disposition. So when a happy/touching moment overtakes him, the director shares the ray of hope, the precious glimmer of being touched despite himself. So the film is filled with these gems welling from opposite natures pushing against each other. The buds of nature push forth despite the obstacles. Solo was the everchanging sunshine in this film.

The pacing was not rushed and only 1 or 2x did I find myself saying "I got it, move on". The acting was genuine and I was amazed how everday, duldrum existence was portrayed with compassion among people who have little possessions, yet no glories imposed, no moments of drama asking for viewer's awe (i.e. Streepless).

The cinematography was expertly crafted: people were positioned that complimented and complemented the background scene. The bleakness of the tobacco-industry sooted parts of town was not beautified, rather its interest captivated me in showing its richness in layers of aging infrastructure moaning as a tired, old beast. Again, I was consistently sated when I looked at the mis-en-scene.

This film is a big reward for seeking out independent, small-budget films---something I seldom have with any film.
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must see
jimifilm23 October 2008
I was trying all week to get these tickets for GOODBYE SOLO at the London Film Fest because I've seen both the directors previous works which had also played there- Man Push Cart and Chop Shop. As soon as the film began i became mesmerized by the seamless blend of the story and photography. Solo is a good natured cabbie from senegal, trying to balance happiness for himself as well as the responsibilities he has for his wife and daughter alex. As Solo develops a relationship with an old man, William - it hits him, he realizes this old man is going to jump off a mountain and he must save him- and his day to day responsibilities shift dramatically, creating a new world for Solo. He even brings in Alex to help him- the three make a new, simply warm friendship. I really felt for Solo and his desire to save the old man who wouldn't bend from his own path. the evolution of their relationship to the very end- made this a truly captivating and real experience you just don't get from the theaters nowadays. not only i really wanted to know what would happen next, but the first half was really funny. i mean, people were laughing out loud, which is different from ramin bahrani's other films. i absolutely recommend this film because it digs deep into you and doesn't let go for days after. I was also lucky enough that the director and the actor (whose name is also Solo) were there and i was able to personally congratulate them on their creation. that guy solo is really good. everyone was commenting on him. check this out if you get a chance.
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Best Film at SXSW!!
maggiepennington36222 March 2009
I admit, I was very worried when I saw the trailer for this film that Bahrani had sold out or made his first bad film. I was worried this was going to be something awful like The Legend of Bagger Vance or The Bucket List. Something cheesy, sentimental, or with an angel black man who saves a white man. Thank God none of that was true! The film is sooooooo GOOD! I loved Bahrani's first two films and wish more people had seen them. But this is his best film yet and I am glad it has a wider release! The characters are real, honest, sincere and once again Bahrani manages to avoid all the normal plot devices that ruin films. Compared to Man Push Cart and Chop Shop, Goodbye Solo has a much stronger story-line and is really tense. You always want to know what happens next, but especially the last 30minutes the audience I saw it here at SXSW were rivited. AND-- it is funny! The first half of the film is really funny and I didn't expect that at all! A lot of that is the writing and directing, but a lot is the acting. That guy playing Solo is so charming he has star written all over him. His warmth and personality make the film something really special, especially next to the old man playing William. He is just perfect in the role, as if it was written for him. The movie left me feeling a little sad, but also really strong and hopeful, which sounds weird, but it's true. Its been days since I saw the film, and I saw many others at the festival, some good ones too, but this is the one that stayed with me. It is the best film I have seen all year and I will see it again when it opens in Austin.
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Solo Must-See!!
john-zeigler2 December 2008
I saw CHOP SHOP at the film forum and loved it, so when a friend told me to go see GOODBYE SOLO, I took the recommendation. SOLO was different from what I expected. It was a lot funnier than CHOP SHOP. I laughed so hard, especially in the beginning. Toward the end, things start to get a lot more emotional. It's a life-affirming film with such a subtly of power that it's haunting. Once the film was over and everything sunk in, it stayed with me, even after leaving the theater and into the night. This is proof enough that Ramin Bahrani has made something original and vital. Like in CHOP SHOP, you can feel the soul of these characters. I can't wait to see what he will be working on next. I hope these actors go up for huge awards or make great careers for themselves, and I hope that Bahrani keeps making movies as good and as sublime as this one.
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craig-windum22 March 2009
Absolutely amazing. I couldn't believe it when I saw it. I had seen the preview, and thought "oh my, this is going to be a tacky indie flick." My wife (yes, I love her dearly) dragged me in to see it at SXSW (like she does so often), and I really wanted to not watch it. But from the very first minute, I was utterly captivated. I can't believe how good a small film like this can be!!! I almost cried in the end, and I felt so full of life. It's a powerful film, and I want to see everything this director has made now. The little girl did such a great job – I hope she becomes a famous actress because she deserves it. The main character was also really good, and his accent was so well acted (I even wonder if it was real?) I can't say there was a better film at SXSW this year – or any year! I've gone many times before, and this one was just shocking. I'm tempted to drive to wherever it's playing (I hear it's getting a limited release in theaters) just to see it again before it comes out on DVD. You must see this film! This director will make it big!
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Goodbye Soslooooooooooow
jordan224010 January 2010
I'm afraid I'm with the group who found this to be terribly boring. Perhaps I'm just too stupid for this sort of film-making, as I just don't get it. Character studies are one thing, but is it too much to ask that someone actually do something interesting. Drawn-out facial closeups do not an interesting movie make. After suffering through the first half-hour/forty minutes, someone actually showed some emotion in a scene I can't even remember now, and I thought I was about to see why this movie garnered such lush praise - but I was wrong. Right back to nothing happening. I don't need everything to be wrapped in a neat little package, but it would have been nice to know at least a tiny bit of what motivated the characters to act as they did. Because of this film, my girlfriend will no longer trust my movie selections. I'm lucky I'm not going "Solo".
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Perfect moments make for a perfect film.
m-p-gordon14 April 2009
I just got back from watching Goodbye Solo at the Harvard Film Archive and absolutely loved it. I so appreciated how Ramin Bahrani had the courage to let the story unfold organically at its own pace. Sometimes films have what I call (for lack of a better term) "perfect moments." It can be a scene, a shot, a line of dialogue or just a look from an actor, but it's a moment where suddenly I am completely and fully aware. Aware of the story unfolding before me, aware of myself watching the story, and simultaneously aware of the fullness and richness of life itself -- joy, pain, love, sadness -- aware that life is big enough to encompass all of this at once. I feel lucky if a film has even one or two such moments. Many films have none. In Goodbye Solo, the perfect moments washed over me one after another until I lost track. How wonderful and rare. Thank you to all who had a hand in making such a touching and beautiful film.
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Lightning Did Strike Thrice For Bahrani
druid333-23 August 2009
This is the fourth feature film by North Carolina born film maker (but of Persian descent),Ramin Bahrani, and I'm overjoyed to announce,this film is every bit as good as the first two I've seen by him ('Man Push Cart',from 2005,and 'Chop Shop',from 2007). Bahrani has the gift of telling the emigrant experience from the emigrant's perspective. The story:a taxi cab driver,simply called Solo (played by a likable Souleyman Sy Savane)gets a fare in his cab one night,who wants him to drive him a long distance for reasons unsaid. William (the fare,played by one time Elvis Presley bodyguard,Red West)is an embittered,burnt out shell of a man who just wants to be left alone. He seems to be content being dropped off at the same cinema,night after night to stare at the young man at the ticket window (for reasons that are never entirely revealed). Solo agrees to take William to this high mountain peak,but balks at the idea that William may just want to jump off the mountain. The bulk of this film finds Solo trying to intervene in Williams life (much to the chagrin of William,himself),and trying to somehow bond a friendship with a man who has been beaten by life one too many times. A subplot involving Solo's step daughter,Alex (played by Diana Franco Galindo)dovetails nicely among the (potential) despair of William's lack of zeal in life. I eagerly await anything new by Bahrani down the pipeline (although I've heard that he has directed a couple of short films prior to 'Man Push Cart'). Not rated by the MPAA,this film contains pervasive raunchy language & smoking.
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best character I have seen in a long time
chandlerbing283 May 2009
This movie made me wish there were an Oscar or other award for "Best Character." My friends and I were very impressed with Solo--who was a seamless blend of great writing and amazing acting.

This man can act with his eyes.

I wished I could be the character's friend so that he could experience the love that he gives to others. You won't be able to get him out of your mind.

It was really nice to see a character-driven movie that did not feel like a movie because nothing was artificially pumped up or heightened. The true story occurred during the random ordinary moments of life.
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compelling Solo performance
SnoopyStyle6 July 2016
Solo (Souleymane Sy Savane) is a cabbie in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He's from Senegal sending money home for his extended family. William (Red West) hires him to drive one way up the local mountain Blowing Rock where wind causes updraft. He's tired, bitter, and sold everything including his apartment except for a couple of suitcases. Solo is talkative and unrelentingly positive. The two men slowly find connections.

Souleymane Sy Savane gives an unrelenting performance. There is a sense of a changing South. The one thing I don't understand is why the two guys spend so much time together. Even William asks why he keeps getting Solo as his cabbie. It would make more sense for a movie over one night. It would create more intensity.
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asc8510 September 2009
I just don't understand all the adulation that this film has received. I can "get" most arty films, and I thought "Chop Shop," which was the previous film from this director was OK, but this film was a total bore, with no purpose, and characters that weren't at all interesting.

As I compose this note, I'm the first person in the Comments section to say how much I disliked this movie. But at least on the IMDb message boards for this movie, I've already found a few who had the same reaction I did. So I guess there's some hope in this world. Dare I say that "Goodbye Solo" will be among the worst films that I will see in 2009.
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More of a WARNING than a REVIEW...
fly4awhiteguy1727 November 2009
This movie is simply painful to watch. I don't mean artistically painful as in the emotionally stimulating, thought-provoking manner of movies like Crash... but rather like the mind-numbing pain of standing in the customer service line at Walmart for 2 hours, just to get your money back.

"Goodbye Solo" glories in the mundane, but not in a crafty or interesting way, like Quentin Tarantino does. All of the main characters feel like they were cast directly from the site Now, imagine focusing in on the minutia of these people's lives, through various often unintelligibly-thick accents (African, Hispanic and Ebonics) for 90 painful minutes, and you get a good feel for what to expect in Goodbye Solo.

To make matters worse, this film was poorly edited. Cuts between scenes are sluggish, and frankly, amateur. It felt like they were trying to stuff in extra seconds of screen time at every angle, desperately reaching for it's 90 minute run-time. There are exceptionally long moments that just linger on-screen, with no interest, no action, and worst of all, no real purpose. Cars will drive in and then out of a shot, while the camera lingers, showing nothing but pavement. We see unnecessarily long scenes such as filling a car with gas, without purpose. We watch extra characters stand and stare blankly for an extended period, then slowly walk out of frame, while the camera looks at an uninteresting and empty scene.

The cinematography itself was acceptable (though not inspiring), but completely ruined by horrible editing.

I made the mistake of watching this movie after seeing all of the rave-reviews on IMDb (7.5/10) and Rotten Tomatoes (94%), which usually help guide my movie selection. For the life of me, I cannot imagine how this movie was enjoyed by that many people.

I give this movie 2 out of 10 stars for being utterly mundane. You deserve to be warned.
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Can't Recommend It
roy-c8 March 2015
I struggled to get through to the end.

Clearly quite a lot of people rated this film, but I merely found it dull with little in the way of plot or pace. These are major and fatal flaws. I have had to read some of the other reviews to even work out what actually happened.

The actors did what they could, and were generally very convincing. Some of the camera-work was also of a high standard.

I'm no fan of frantic films filled with over-acting, but this is not the first film where I longed for something - anything - to happen to relieve the boredom.

When you're watching a film with someone else and after 45 minutes you're saying "well it's supposed to be good and I'm sure it'll improve", that's not a good sign.

It wasn't and it didn't.
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Will I Ever Be the Same???
binaryg3 February 2010
I'm always trolling for movies. Sometimes a film will arrive in the mail and I'll have no idea why I rented it. When I got "Goodbye Solo" I checked its rating at the Metacritic site and instantly realized why I'd rented it. It was a small independent film with a super high (89 average) approval rating. I expected to be moved and entertained. I'd seen "The Taste of Cherry" a few months ago and thought it was stunning. "Solo" had a similar plot line.

I watched "Solo" and waited for it to work its magic but nothing happened for me and I felt the end to be no end at all. What will happen to all of these characters after the film ended? Worse I didn't really care. As I read the critics and users reviews here I can understand how someone might be very moved by it all and feel the ending profound but it left me cold.

I believe a hint of why I reacted that way to "Solo" lay in an experience I had last year with "Happy-Go-Lucky," another independent, quirky film that interested me because of its critical reception. I watched it and loved it and gave it the highest rating and recommended it to friends. Then one night I watched it with a couple of friends I was sure would like it. I began watching "Happy" with them and was laughing in the spots I had laughed the first time though until I noticed my friends weren't laughing in the right spots or at all and eventually I realized they were really disliking it. We stopped it a couple of times to talk a little about what wasn't working for them and by the end of "Happy-Go-Lucky" I was agreeing with them and couldn't figure out why the film had such an impact on me the first time. Poppy just didn't work for me after it was pointed out to me how unrealistic here character was.

I'm not usually a film buff whose opinion is easily swayed by others. But now I'm wondering if my friends may have ruined the quirky independent film genre for me. It's possible based on my experience with "Goodbye Solo," but I sure hope not.
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A for effort, C for execution
girlocelot26 August 2009
This director will one day make a great movie. This isn't it. But it's worth seeing for the stellar performances, particularly by the incandescent Savane as Solo. All the actors are excellent - Diana Franco Galindo, as a ten-year old is great. The textures of life, the little details that tell you what the characters lives are really like are very well done. Bahrani has good ideas, artistic vision and technical prowess.

You could compare him with the Dardenne brothers. But they have mastered the roughly-hewn, realistic, pithy story, and they have developed their own unique, humanistic and supremely crafted way of telling their stories. In their films, the characters and their lives pull the story along. Their films pulse with thrumming heart-beats. GS doesn't.

I almost don't want to criticise Goodbye Solo, but I must because I think Bahrani can do better. GS doesn't gel all the way. The heart is there, the intention is noble, yet it's as if the director needs a better pair of glasses on to make us see his vision. GS was way better than Chop Shop. Let's keep our eyes on this guy.
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Future Master Filmmaker
danny-zeitman24 March 2009
Bahrani's new film Solo is gorgeous. I saw Chop Shop on DVD and thought it was remarkable, but this film blows it away. It's tender-tough, and very elegant… It's everything Gus Van Sant wants to achieve – only better. He clearly has a very unique look at the world, and his film is deeply humanistic. I sure he likes the films of Bresson and Renoir, maybe? But this is much more watchable and entertaining, while artistic at the same time. I think it was also shot on digital, but it looks like it could have been shot on film! His cinematographer is someone to watch. I think it is clear that Bahrani is not your average spoiled, indie kid filmmaker with no life experience. Though he is young, he must not be like these kids trying to make these "hip" indie movies that end up being boring. This is a true filmmaker, with rich views and understanding of the world. If he continues on the path he is on, he will win the palme d'or one day or even an Oscar, mark my words.
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The longest 90 minutes of my life
tcheb13 November 2009
This movie almost killed me. I hang on until the very end hoping for something that would make me think that this wasn't a complete waste of time but no. Nothing of the sort happened. The character development is naive and insanely clichéd. Instead of an actual plot, the movie is filled with ridiculous political correctness, cultural commonplaces and cheap tearjerkers.

The acting might actually be good as well as the general production of the movie but the banality and platitude of the script makes it a total disaster.

The critics at the Venice Festival completely lost my confidence with this one.
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Not experimental fiction, but fiction as experiment
Doctor_Phil19 May 2021
I felt, after watching Goodbye Solo, like I'd never seen a real movie before. I can't at this moment think of anything that matches it at exploring human nature and human experience, both the good and the bad, realistically enough to be anthropological rather than didactic--and yet not boring.

Then I came to IMDB and saw its dismal ratings. That made me sadder than the movie did. I read some of the poor reviews, to try to understand why most people didn't like this movie. I'll try to explain why I did, in a way they might understand.

I don't think this is a case of "pretentious art film" versus "unwashed masses". I think that most people who hated this film ground their thinking in spiritual metaphysical assumptions, where by "spiritual" I mean any ideology that requires the behavior of animals, groups of people, or organizations to result from its essential nature, rather than materialisticaly, as the result of mechanistic interactions; and that imagines it already knows what causes life's problems, and already has all the answers to them. So "spiritual" includes, for instance, Jacobins, Marxists, Nazis, and the Social Justice movement.

Humans are, and always have been, bad at noticing the good. We tell our own histories as a series of wars and tragedies, presenting even our greatest achievements (say, the industrial revolution) in a negative light, never mentioning the millions of small moments of joy that more than make up for the periods of destruction.

In fiction, this manifests as the Milton effect--we make our villains more interesting than our heroes, and it is they, rather than the heroes, who are the "protagonists", the first movers, in our stories, to whom heroes merely react. There are no villains in Goodbye Solo, but William is the negative element, and the (technical) protagonist to whom Solo reacts.

But Solo is not merely reacting to William. His response to William is part of his whole personality, and we see him enact optimism and generosity in every aspect of his life. William is a fascinating negative character, but Solo, the positive character, is even more fascinating. It 's so rare to see fiction where the positive character outshine the negative without falling into false oversimplifications.

In any other story, the conflict between William and Solo would be the focus of the story; we would watch the movie to "find out what happens". In this story, that conflict is just the handle by which we first grasp each character. We learn only a little more about William, but a good deal more about Solo.

And here's where audience worldviews collide. Spiritualists believe in a simple world with simple answers. Every person is an instance of some universal type ("the elect", "sinner", "Jew", "Volk", "proletariat", "bourgeois", "awoken", "racist", etc.), and differs only in what Aristotle would call "accidental properties" from other members of that type. Groups likewise are instances of types, and history is the working-out of conflicts between these groups, as understood by conflict theory.

Spiritualists expect a movie to resolve its problems, because they think all problems can and should be resolved. They want only the emotional catharsis of seeing another problem resolved, whether successfully or tragically. They aren't thinking deeply about any of it, because they have no reason to; they think their religion or ideology already gave them all the important knowledge and wisdom about life. So this movie, which is about the particular characters of William and Solo, holds no interest for them once they think they've figured out what type to cast each of them as, and what social class to categorize them as.

Whereas true materialists understand the world as full of complex, unique individuals, unbounded by "essential natures", and are always looking for more insight into what kinds of people can exist and how they might interact. A movie, to them, is not merely a cathartic validation of their own preconceptions. It is an experiment, in the same sense that Emile Zola used to explain naturalist fiction in the 19th century.

To a scientist, the most-satisfying experiments are those which succeed, validating a new theory. But the most-interesting experiments are the experiments that fail--the ones where you don't get the expected result. That's what Goodbye Solo gives us. It isn't meant to pat you on the back and congratulate you for being a good person in harmony with the Right and Proper beliefs which always win in the end. It's meant to disturb you, and give you new data that doesn't fit your expectations, to think about.
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postsenthil27 October 2019
Another wonderful movie from Ramin Bharani (the director of Man Push Cart). It tells the story of interaction between a middle-aged Senegalese taxi driver Solo in a small town in USA and William, his aged (& apparently weathered) white passenger who presents him with a curious deal.

Solo & William are a study in stark contrasts. While Solo is loquacious, needs no reason to beam his warm smile at anyone and is genuinely warm to everybody (especially his passengers), William is copybook taciturn & guarded to the extent that we end up knowing almost nothing about him at all. Although he is initially annoyed with Solo's advances to connect to him, he is unable to resist the genuine warmth of the taxi driver and opens to him a bit (just a bit). Solo's has a Hispanic wife & cute stepdaughter. He is studying hard to realise his dream of becoming a flight attendant. William seems to be winding up his affairs in every sense of the word.

The beauty of the movie is the simplicity with which the interaction between these two are captured and the gravity in the relationship which engrosses the viewer. The director ably harnesses the emotinal energy in many a silent moments and the eyes of the lead actors which are pregnant with several unanswered questions and unuttered answers.

A beauty from the realms of bare-bones movie making !!
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