DIRECTED BY RAMIN BAHRANI
STARRING: SOULEYMANE SY SAVANE, RED WEST, DIANA FRANCO GALINDO
Larger than life is a tagline one should never associate with ‘life’, and that is the irony I find in critical response to Iranian-American director Ramin Bahrani’s third venture. Maybe life has just one way of presenting itself and it’s us humans who corrupt its uniqueness with perceptions of our own, but ‘Goodbye Solo’ perceives for itself: A hundred and first, of sorts. And it is not exhilaration or a sense of triumph that I feel when a film on such lines comes my way or if I seek it, but rather an urgency to sit and think. That’s precisely what ‘Goodbye Solo’ inspired in me.
Solo is ambitious. He desperately wants to get out of the streets of Winston-Salem, but he doesn’t mind the skies over it. In fact, that’s where he wants to be: Serving people on a plane. That’s what he does when he thinks he’s sure that no one’s looking, and that could be right for all we know, because his wife Quiera is busy enough nursing herself and yelling at him, his step-daughter Alex (an extremely adorable Diana) hardly makes eye-contact, and his friends are often too sedated to notice, and this isn’t a bunch of negatives heaped on everyone else. Neither is it a glorification of a misplaced protagonist. It’s life: As plain, and as simple.
But there’s William the ‘old dog’, and he’s pretty much the watchful eye for everyone except himself, only that he hides it beneath the wrinkles and streaks of graying red hair, never to be caught in the act, although uncovered at a point of time. He has his share of cheek, although it takes a hell lot of time and an equal amount of provocation to get that out of him, he drinks like the sobriety he is, he is reminiscent of his times and virtually lives there, with the Harleys and Hank Williams and less complicated telephone sets. He has money in a bank account, only to spend on films at Marketplace Cinemas, a place he frequents (not without reason), and on a far more ‘adventurous’ task that has his negotiate with the cab-driver who flat-out doesn’t want to be one.
One can never explain ‘love’, one can never theorize the intensity of certain affections and the existence of the same. Solo might be one who dreams about the sky, but it doesn’t take a rival to bring him to the ground, nor does an equivalent ambition. It’s surprisingly the lack of it, and he cannot see why it is so. He finds he can never comprehend William, because he’s just not like him. Solo speaks of attachment, and family to him is ‘fun’. William wishes to be alone. It is a love story that has not been touched, and we know that Solo would never get to William, and we know that Solo, on his part, would never cease trying. We know October the 20th can never be stopped from coming, and we know for sure, that ‘Blowing Rock’ is not exactly a picnic spot one would plan to camp in. But we still watch it: Not with a degree of empathy one would relate to other films with fairly similar themes, but as a detached, separate person in the thick of things. Not through William’s eyes, not through Solo’s, but through the tiny opening on the camera-phone that Alex so incredibly operates, which happens to be the only way you get to see the world as it is.
I wouldn’t touch upon anything that Ramin Bahrani was part of, because I know that what is, is only because he intended it to be so. That’s why Souleymane keeps saying, “I appreciate it”, and that’s why he’s so very far from being a good actor. Because we’re all bad actors who forget our lines and ask for time to rethink about what we were about to say. William wouldn’t give it to him, for his head and his pocketbook are brimming already. It’s a clear-cut void, one facing the back of the other, a glass wall in between. Thinking things is the most they can do.
Maybe I could be wrong. Perhaps there would be a time when Bahrani would require a revisit so he could get back to what he was, get back to his brilliance. This, is not that time. This is the ‘brilliance’.