Inspired by Kiarostami’s ‘Taste of Cherry‘, this standout American indie about a young effervescent Senegalese taxi driver befriending a suicidal old man features two extraordinary, emotionally affecting performances from Souleymane Sy Savane and Red West.
Dir. Ramin Bahrani
2008 | USA | Drama | 87 mins | 1.85:1 | English, Wolof, French & Spanish
PG13 (passed clean) for language
Cast: Souleymane Sy Savane, Red West, Diana Franco Galindo
Plot: In North Carolina, the optimistic taxi driver Souléymane Solo is hired by William, a stoic 70-year-old, to drive him to Blowing Rock, the peak of a jagged mountain, in two weeks time. When Solo finds out that William plan is to commit suicide, he makes a plan to stop him by becoming his friend.
Awards: Won FIPRESCI Prize – Parallel Sections & Nom. for Orrizonti Award (Venice)
International Sales: Memento Films Intl
Subject Matter: Moderate – Human Connection; Life & Death
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
Ramin Bahrani has been on my radar for years, considering his reputation as an indie darling who blossomed in the 2000s with the likes of Man Push Cart (2005) and Chop Shop (2007). MUBI made me finally take the plunge, starting with his fourth feature, Goodbye Solo, which happens to be a great one.
A standout piece of American indie cinema inspired by Kiarostami’s Taste of Cherry (1997), Goodbye Solo sees a young effervescent Senegalese taxi driver befriending a suicidal old man in a straightforward but emotionally affecting tale about what it means to live—and to die.
Played by Souleymane Sy Savane (his feature acting debut) and Red West (known for his close friendship with the legendary Elvis Presley) respectively, the duo’s acting chemistry is worth the price of the admission ticket.
“William, are you awake?”
By pitting two men of two wholly different cultures, Bahrani deconstructs what it means to exist in America. Solo, the Senegalese, has a new family and hopes to study for a better-paying job as an air steward.
His zest for life and the optimism of living his ‘American Dream’ is in explicit contrast with the sullen, utterly-depressed William, who seems to be harbouring a secret of his own.
Bahrani’s work proves to be very engaging throughout, never losing the humanity that is so graciously imbued in the narrative and characterisations from the first scene.
Its leisurely qualities and quiet moments of alone time with each of the two main characters are quite revelatory, proving that you don’t need truckloads of resources to make an effective and poignant piece of cinema.