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Goodbye Solo (2009)


"Before viewing" talks introduce the film without spoilers. Watch it, then click on the "After viewing" talk for more. More»» by Randy Heffner

Why the film is worth your time

A momentary acquaintance is most times just that: momentary. The beauty in Goodbye Solo arises from a quick, sharp moment of insight leads one character, driven by his depth of concern for other people, to relentlessly pursue keeping the relationship alive. From a different angle and perspective, it explores a profound depth and sincerity of human care and concern and love.

Solo is an immigrant to the USA from Senegal. He’s a friendly, energetic, and talkative taxi driver in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. One customer, William, has a deal to offer: On the 20th of the month, he’ll give Solo $1,000 for a one-way ride to a landmark two hours outside of town. In his friendly and inquisitive way, Solo is intrigued and wants to know the reason behind William’s unusual request. William doesn’t appreciate his inquisitiveness, yet Solo’s engaging manner keeps him (barely) talking. Then Solo stumbles upon the reason when William doesn’t answer one of his questions. Shocked, Solo is immediately engulfed by deeply felt concern and by a desire to break through the frozenness of William’s life. Running time: 91 min.

The film’s tense but remarkable relationships explore important relational questions. How shall we know and respect and love others within good relational boundaries? When does love for another human respect another’s desire to be left to themselves — versus when does love refuse to leave them alone? What manner of relationship will encourage another to open up to invasive love? How do family and relationships draw us both into life and into death? How can we help another forge relational bonds that draw them to life? How is our care and concern for others both a beautiful gift and a responsibility? Goodbye Solo, in its tone, plot, dialog, relationships, and pacing, wonderfully explores such territory.

Goodbye Solo’s filmcraft is direct, no-frills, and excellent all around. The dichotomy of the lead characters in the screenplay — irrepressible, optimistic connection to life and relationship versus detached and broken loneliness — is superbly captured by the film’s two lead actors. The pacing of the film, starting from the opening shot where we are thrown into the middle of a conversation between taxi driver and passenger, on the one hand gives space to relational development and reflection and, on the other hand, jars us into new realizations and perspectives. Numerous allusions and metaphors support and inform the film’s exploration. Goodbye Solo is a beautifully conceived and executed film, very well worth the investment of time — but be sure it’s a time when you can pause afterward and consider what the film has taken you through.

The central driver of Goodbye Solo’s plot is a person intent on self-harm. Some mild and strong language. Some brief fistfighting.

  • Director: Ramin Bahrani
  • Screenplay: Bahareh Azimi & Ramin Bahrani
  • Leads: SoulĂ©ymane Sy SavanĂ©, Red West, Diana Franco Galindo
  • Cinematography: Michael Simmonds
  • Music: M. Lo

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"After viewing" talks assume that you have seen the film. They will contain spoilers. More»» by Randy Heffner

I was intensely struck by Solo’s character in Goodbye Solo and specifically by his immediate — and sustained — reaction to a fellow human in crisis. I want to be that ready to reach and stretch

Read the rest of this entry »

Screenshots and dialog copyright © 2009 by the filmmakers.


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