Opening in limited release this weekend, Goodbye Solo depicts the improbable friendship between an earnest Sengalese cab driver and a bitter White conservative southerner in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The film quietly garnered accolades after premiering at the Venice Film Festival last August and then continued to impress audiences elsewhere, making its way through the festival circuit in Toronto, London, Vienna, and Portland.
The official description offers more details:
"One man‘s American dream is just beginning, while the other‘s is quickly winding down. But despite their differences, both men soon realize they need each other more than either is willing to admit. Through this unlikely but unforgettable friendship, Goodbye Solo deftly explores the passing of a generation as well as the rapidly changing face of America."
As of posting this, the film is in excellent standing with the critics, with an impressive 90 average on Metacritic and a staggering 100% Tomatometer score at Rotten Tomatoes, with an average critical rating of 7.9/10. Granted, these scores are tabulated from a relatively small pool of reviews, but to say the least, they don't come poised out of the starting gate looking much better than this.
My buddy Roger Ebert especially credits director Ramin Bahrani, declaring:
Bahrani is the new great American director. He never steps wrong. In "Goodbye Solo," he begins with a situation that might unfold in a dozen different ways and makes of it something original and profound. It is about the desire to help and the desire to not be helped.A.O. Scott of The New York Times furthers this praise:
What each one [of the characters] takes from the other is not spelled out and does not need to be. Because grace is also what defines Mr. Bahrani’s filmmaking. I can’t think of anything else to call the quality of exquisite attention, wry humor and wide-awake intelligence that informs every frame of this almost perfect film.
The aforementioned reviews as well as those written in the trades (namely, The Hollywood Reporter and Variety) after the film's showing in Toronto also offer praise for cinematographer Michael Simmonds' artistic framing of rugged and rural North Carolina. Lighter laudations are also given to leads Red West and Souleymane Sy Savane.
Consider this the first live-action film of the year to earn a serious spot on this year's Oscar radar. Goodbye Solo is now playing in limited release.