A.O. Scott’s review of Ramin Bahrani’s third feature Goodbye Solo has reached out from my laptop screen and grabbed me by the eyeballs.

Here are a few snippets:

Solo (Souleymane Sy Savane), the driver, is a Senegalese man living in Winston-Salem, N.C., working and charming his way toward a share of the American dream. His demeanor is effortlessly warm and disarmingly friendly. He wears down resistance or suspicion with an incandescent smile and affectionate teasing: every male customer or colleague is “big dog”; the unseen and impatient female dispatcher is “pork chop.” Solo’s hardy, at times almost inexplicable optimism makes him a kindred spirit to Poppy, the London schoolteacher played by Sally Hawkins in Mike Leigh’s “Happy-Go-Lucky.”

Already, this sounds more interesting to me than Bahrani’s Chop Shop, in which the context was far more interesting to me than the characters.

And though Solo’s world — the nighttime streets and rough edges of a small American city — is in some ways more somber than Poppy’s, he too must face, largely within the confines of a moving car, a profound challenge to his sunny view of it. The man in the back seat in that first scene is William (Red West), a white Southerner at least 30 years older than Solo, who wants to arrange a trip to a place called Blowing Rock. It’s a long drive into the mountains, and William is offering a lot of money.

The accompanying photo of William makes me miss Richard Farnsworth. And this plot summary makes me wonder if The Straight Story won’t be, in some way, a film worth considering in relationship with this one.

Mr. Bahrani is not interested in serving up warmed-over multicultural sentiment or in delivering lessons on social problems, nor in staging encounters between uptight, privileged white Americans and earthy, sensitive Others.

So in other words, this isn’t Crash. Thank goodness.

[Solo’s]decency can seem like a form of aggression, and it can make him look foolish as well as saintly. Mr. Bahrani has cited Roberto Rossellini’s “Flowers of Saint Francis” as an influence on “Goodbye Solo,” and while Solo is hardly without sin, he does seem at times to be in possession of a quality that can be described only as grace.

Very, very interesting word, Mr. Scott.

And in conclusion?

What each one 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.

There’s that word again: Grace.

Save a seat for me.

If you’re still not interested, check this out: “The New Great American Director”. High praise from Roger Ebert. And here’s his review.

And here’s a celebratory post from Alissa Wilkinson at Filmwell.

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