As William, a taciturn senior who seems to be planning for his final days, veteran character actor and former Elvis Presley bodyguard Red West takes center stage in Goodbye Solo, the third feature co-written and directed by Ramin Bahrani (Man Push Cart, Chop Shop), who, at 34, has quietly emerged as one of the major figures in American independent film. What's consistently remarkable about Bahrani's work is his steadfast refusal to peddle cheap sentiment, or to mine for hope where there is none to be found. And while all of his films to date have dealt with entrepreneurial endeavors, it is not riches that Bahrani's ragged protagonists seek, but merely a finer quality of rags. In Goodbye Solo, the small-scale social climber is the title character (excellent newcomer Souleymane Sy Savane), a Senegalese-born taxi driver who cruises the streets of Winston-Salem. When Solo gives a ride to William, he's perplexed by the elder man's request to pick him up again at a date in the near future and deposit him at the top of a local mountain, no questions asked. The more Solo pries, the more William retreats. Yet a profound, if fragile bond forms between the two men. The revelation of the film is West, who, in his first leading role, seems like an old buffalo nickel uncovered from the recesses of a dusty bureau, its worth derived not from its assigned value, but from the places it has been and the hands it has passed through.
Wed., July 15, 2, 7:15 & 9:15 p.m.; Thu., July 16, 7:15 & 9:15 p.m., 2009