Goodbye Solo

  • Ramin Bahrani
  • 2009

Euthanasia is a contentious issue. The word has its origins in the Greek and could be translated simply as ‘good death’. Goodbye Solo, in its own fashion, deals with the subject area. William (Red West) is 70 years old and has regrets about the way he lives his life. He strikes up a deal with his Senegalese taxi driver Solo (Souleymane Sy Savane), whom he books to take him all the way to Blowing Rock and leave him there. Solo agrees, but not without forcing himself upon the lonely William in the two week build up period.

Solo is not without his own problems. His Mexican Quiera (Carmen Leyva) is pregnant with his first child, though he has a very strong bond with his step-daughter 9 year old Alex (Diana Franco Galindo). An unlikely pairing, the lonely pensioner and the ambitious taxi driver (he dreams of being an air steward) embark on a difficult journey of discovery. Almost immediately, William moves out of his appartment and into a motel, starting on the journey to his final moments. Solo leaves his wife after an argument and moves in with William, though William has little say in the matter. What ensues is a twisted path of realisation on both sides. Solo learns what he has lost and determines not to end up alone like his good friend William. He notices in William a change, as he connects with his own stepdaughter. The private William reveals little of himself, a characteristic that inevitably leads to his potential demise. Before their journey is over, Solo wants to get to know more about the solitary figure.

Goodbye Solo is the third directorial outing by the critically acclaimed Ramin Bahrani. He based his characters upon two strangers in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the town in which he was born and raised. Bahrani got to the know the Senegalese taxi driver over the years, learning interesting facts about his background and his situation. The old man, William, is based upon an elederly man who lived in sheletered accomodation in the area. Bahrani would often see the man walking down the street, though they didn’t know each other they would often wave. Bahrani wished to explore the characters he created in his own mind based on what little he knew of the two. What would happen if the two ever met? The optimistic taxi driver and the pessimistic old man.

Goodbye Solo will leave you with both questions and resolutions.

Goodbye Solo poses an interesting question. Should Solo help William end his life just because William wants out? William needs to get to Blowing Rock, his chosen end point, where he would simply be carried away by the wind, but for this he needs a taxi driver. Even before Solo gets to know William, he is curious about his background. The dynamic created by West and Savane is pure magic. The natural banter between the two characters is utterly convincing. Savane, who before the film had little acting experience, is a natural. He carries the heart and soul and what is a strangely warming piece. It is impossible not to lose yourself in the compellingly subtle interactions.

Goodbye Solo starts simply and remains uncomplicated throughout. While William should be wholely unlikeable, it is Solo’s intrigue and tender moments with Alex that demonstrate a lighter side to the troubled figure. Had the film felt more intrusive, it would have been easy to lose interest in the journey. But by keeping it observational and non-inclusional, the viewer is intrigued as to what will happen to both Solo and William. Can the two help one another out of tricky situations? Will Solo be able to show William that he has something to live for? The simple layers of the film allow a simple resolution, which though hard to deal with seems to be the right thing to do.

Regardless of your views on euthanasia, Goodbye Solo is an impressive effort. It will leave you with both questions and resolutions.

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