Posts Tagged ‘fictional people i love’

I loved Goodbye, Solo.


Let me see if I can find a way to do it justice (I’m going to discuss the ending, so if you haven’t seen it and want to you might want to skip this). Ramin Bahrani has made a film about people I recognize, about lives that seem real. This might not seem like a big deal, but since the majority of major film releases involve boys with Peter Pan complexes, superheros, super-techno gadgets, and ladies who must. find. a. husband, I think this is a major accomplishment. Of course, this is an independent film which pretty much means it has to be of different quality than the latest bullshit.

What I liked best about it, I think, is more than than it’s a film about real people: one of the main characters is a good human being. Is that shocking? Think about it. Lots of small, smart films create characters I sympathize with. Take Half Nelson. I loved Ryan Gosling’s school teacher, and I loved Shareeka Epp’s portrayal of a young woman faced with two very different role models. But I can’t say that anyone in that film was a lovely, extraordinary person interested in helping strangers, capable of withstanding multiple rejections and obstacles in order to help a person in pain. I loved Goodbye Solo because it created a beautiful portrayal of a young man who cared about people he barely knew.

That’s remarkable. I can’t remember the last time I saw a film about a person like that: a person with a real life and real goals, a person who is disappointed in some of them and a person who works and needs the love and support of the people he cares about. He accepts that they can’t always give him what he needs and he manages to tread a line where he gives them all the love he can while trying to not entirely give up the things he wants. So far, so good: that makes his character a lot less selfish than the vast majority of self-involved personalities on the screen. What makes Solo so memorable is how he takes on an interest in William, a man who is obviously troubled and lonely. Solo makes William’s well-being important to him despite William’s reluctance. He goes as far as he can to involve the suicidal William in the world, but he also knows when to stop pushing. The audience doesn’t really know how Solo’s attempts to reach out to William affect him; we do know that Solo’s probable failure to change William’s mind hurts Solo.

Who can’t relate to wanting so much to help a person… and failing? After failing his flight attendant test, after his wife (who, I must say, I think is making a reasonable request but there is not enough of a back story here) continues to ask him not to pursue his chosen career path, after Solo knows that William has in all likelihood ended his life… Solo stays strong for his step-daughter (a wonderful character, btw) and allows her to quiz him so he can take his flight attendant test again. Solo’s been disappointed, he’s tried his best to help another human being and he simply is refused the comfort of knowing he did. He can feel sorry for himself and let the world know it, or go on and keep trying to be a decent person, which is what he does. SoulĂ©ymane Sy SavanĂ©, the actor who portrays Solo, is just tremendous. The same shot of him silently driving his taxi and staring ahead is used throughout the film, and each time his face reflects the way things are unfolding by barely moving a muscle. It’s simply in his pained and empathetic eyes. He’s incredible.

My one issue with the film relates more to the film industry at large. Why oh why don’t women get the same sort of captivating material to work with? I’m racking my brain trying to think of films in the past year with women who had comparable interesting personalities. I can think of I’ve Loved You So Long and Happy-Go-Lucky (I refuse to include Rachel Getting Married as a film with an interesting lead female character because by God I hated that film so much, which makes me apparently one of a very small minority but whatever). By far the majority deal with men, men’s issues, men’s lives. I don’t understand why; what makes men’s lives so much more captivating than women’s? I can think of tons of ideas about films that involve female relationships beyond mother-daughter bonding and I-am-woman-I-must-get-married. So maybe I should write one and stop complaining about it. But despite that one bone, Goodbye Solo is a quietly triumphant film about the decent people in our world whose small acts of goodness may go unnoticed most of the time, but make life worth living.


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