There are indie filmmakers who try to work in the realm of small character dramas and succeed only in making myopic films that feel inert and meaningless; there are those who attempt to stand out from the pack by writing scripts replete with quirky story lines and witty dialogue, only to end up with a mundane mess; and then there are a few who manage to achieve, through a combination of richly drawn, yet simple stories and excellent cinematography, a level of filmmaking that inspires without overwhelming, impresses without overreaching. Ramin Bahrani falls firmly in the latter camp, and with his latest film, Goodbye Solo, the director builds on the excellence of his previous work with a finely drawn tale of a cabdriver and the fare who changes his life.
Bahrani starts with an intriguing premise: Solo, a cab driver (Souléymane Sy Savané) picks up a routine fare, only to find his life turned upside down when the man he picks up asks him to take him to the remote mountaintop location of Blowing Rock in two weeks, where he plans to jump to his death. Solo's troubled by both the plans of his fare, William (Red West) to end his life, and the implications to himself of being a party to the man's suicide; he decides to befriend the older man in an attempt to persuade him to change his plans. This is the simple set-up for the film, and it's all Bahrani needs to make a thoughtful, compelling film that explores the relationship between these two vastly different men and the way they're changed by the friendship they form.