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Apr 23, 2009

In Goodbye Solo, an unlikely relationship teaches two men the meaning of friendship.

By Amy Van Vechten

When they first meet, Solo and William have little in common. Solo, a Senegalese taxi driver living and working in Winston-Salem, N.C., is gregarious, generous and always willing to lend a helping hand. William, his passenger, is a guarded, elderly man who offers to pay Solo a premium to take him on a one-way trip to a 4,000-foot high mountain cliff.
Fearing William’s intentions for taking the trip, Solo refuses his proposition and, instead, tries to convince him to stay in town. Over the ensuing weeks, an unlikely friendship blossoms between the two men as their lives grow increasingly intertwined.
The relationship between Solo and William is at the heart of Goodbye Solo, director Ramin Bahrani’s deeply humanistic examination of friendship, aging and identity.
The inspiration for the film and its characters came from people Bahrani met in Winston-Salem. In particular, the character of William emerged out of a relationship Bahrani had with an elderly man who waved to him from outside a nursing home.
“What kind of life do we have for elderly people in America?” Bahrani asks. “It’s quite different from my Iranian background, where you take care of the elderly; they live with you. That also matches Senegalese culture. So I thought of putting these two men in the taxi together.”
After only casting amateur actors in his previous films (Man Push Cart and Chop Shop), working with professionals in Goodbye Solo was a new experience for Bahrani. Souléymane Sy Savané plays Solo brilliantly, lending the character an undeniable lust for life. Stunt man and character actor Red West, who was a former bodyguard of Elvis Presley, plays William, a man wanting to die.
Goodbye Solo’s climactic scene takes place at Blowing Rock, which is located about a hundred miles west of Winston-Salem. Bahrani shot the footage in October in order to capture the brilliantly colored autumn foliage.
“The cinematic language of the final moments on the rock with Solo is important to me,” he says. “I tried to capture a very intense emotion and a complex philosophy about the world, god, life and death, through basic elements and cuts: Solo’s face, his hand holding a wooden stick above the clouds and trees and the gusting sound of wind. No dialogue. No music. No sentiment. This scene can’t be a novel, a song or theatre. It can only be expressed this way through cinema.”
To emphasize the significance of Solo’s decision to help his friend on his final journey, Bahrani decided to provide very little explanation for why William wants to leave. Instead, he focuses on Solo’s transformation from trying to change William’s mind to learning to accept his role in the journey.
“If someone you love one day decides to leave and gives you no explanation, most people feel that’s a selfish decision,” Bahrani explains. “But if you really love someone, you should help them do what they want, even if it hurts you. That’s a bigger act of love—a selfless love.”  

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Thank you for the ‘heads up’ an this film. I’m anxious to go see it. My Son, Grandson and I all live together; an unusual but wonderful arrangement for me. Until my Grandson moved in with us a couple of years ago, I had had little contact with him. Getting to knw and love each other more have added immensely to my life, as has the ever-strengthening bond between my Son and I. Thanks agagin, Grant, Tulsa

Grant H. Cole
May 3, 2009