Saturday, September 12, 2009

Goodbye Solo: Grade D

Goodbye Solo (2008)
Souleymane Sy Savane, Red West; Writer-Director Ramin Bahrani.

A pathologically cheerful Senegalese taxi driver (Savane) picks up an angry, misanthropic old man (West) in contemporary North Carolina. They agree that the driver will take him to the mountains in two weeks. They see each other several times before that and the driver realizes that the old man is depressed and possibly considering suicide. Gradually the men form the barest thread of a connection that could possibly be construed as friendship. There is no plot, no motivation, no outcome, no point to any of it. Each man denies his loneliness to himself and the other, but finds a tiny solace in caring. (I am generously attributing or imagining a theme that may not really be there.)

Acting by the two principals is very good, but without anything to hang on to, the story is just a set of unconnected scenes. At least 20% of the movie is composed of long shots of the taxi driving around, and short shots of the driver driving it. The rest of the movie is about as interesting. The relationship does not develop so much as creep along, so little is revealed about either character. Bahrani is expert at portraying the circumstances and struggles of hard-working immigrants (Chop Shop, Man Push Cart), but this project doesn’t come up to his standards, either narratively or photographically.

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