Toronto Reviews: Derick Martini's Lymelife / Ramin Bahrani's Goodbye Solo
by Alex Billington
September 12, 2008
After sleeping in late, I decided to catch two screenings of two films that I had heard were good, but didn't know much about. Both seemed to be the kind of films that I was in the mood to see - American dramas that aren't overly intense or energetic, but good enough to keep me awake. Lymelife was exactly the type of film that I wanted to see, but unfortunately seems more like a Sundance drama than Toronto feature. Goodbye Solo was an incredible film built around two great characters that capped off my otherwise uneventful day. Before I even start to talk about either of these any more though, I just need to say that I would definitely suggest both of them. They're two indies that need as much love as they can get.
Directed by: Derick Martini
Toronto Rating: 7.5 out of 10
If you've ever watched The Squid and the Whale, then you know what a great coming-of-age 70's drama looks like. Lymelife is another indie film based on the true childhood stories of director Derick Martini and his brother and co-writer Steven Martini. It's an amusing drama centered on a fifteen-year-old kid named Scott (Rory Culkin), who is not only struggling to ask out his female friend Adrianna (Emma Roberts), but is dealing with parents who are on the verge of divorce and a brother who is shipping off to war. Lymelife was just what I was looking for at this fest - a well-made American coming-of-age story full of strong performances and the occasional laugh-out-loud moment.
Joining Rory and Emma are Alec Baldwin as Scott's father Mickey, a rich real estate salesman bursting with dry humor and lacking any sensibility; Jill Hennessy as Scott's mother Brenda, a Queens-born New Yorker loathing the suburban life; Cynthia Nixon as Adrianna's mother Melissa, a sultry wife tired of her husband; Timothy Hutton as Adrianna's sickly dad Charlie; and Rory's real life brother Kieran Culkin as his older cinematic brother Jimmy, who is about to be shipped off to war. There isn't a very exciting plot, per se, but it's centered around a lyme disease scare and takes place in the quiet rural neighborhoods of Long Island, which is a good enough setting to allow Rory to lead the way.
The highlight of Lymelife was the impressive acting all-around. The chemistry between Rory and his brother Kieran was the most endearing and entertaining aspect, and that's due in part to the real life connection the two have. Additionally, Emma Roberts deserves more than a mention for delivering one hell of a performance unlike anything she's ever done before. And last but not least, Alec Baldwin brought a much-needed humorous personality to the cast and definitely made me laugh the most, albeit not because of the best humor. Unfortunately the film has some unacceptable editing issues and other technical flaws, but besides those, it's a thoroughly compelling film that's actually worth seeing.
Lymelife unfortunately got caught at the wrong time and the wrong place. It's a Sundance film at heart and should've debuted in January rather than September. While its got all the makings of a film that could play well with particular art house audiences, it'll be quickly forgotten by moviegoers looking for more powerful Oscar fare, which is quite a shame. Lymelife deserves better and deserves to be seen.
Directed by: Ramin Bahrani
Toronto Rating: 8.5 out of 10
I have a subtle appreciation for films that are refreshing and unique and tell enduring stories in fascinating ways. Goodbye Solo is one of them, an incredibly captivating film about the lives of two people and the connections they establish in such a short time. Writer/director Ramin Bahrani's style and storytelling methods in Goodbye Solo are entirely engaging on their own, but add in two remarkable performances from Red West and Souleymane Sy Savane, and you'll start to see why Goodbye Solo is more than the typical low-budget indie feature. In fact, I think I'm still a bit numb from seeing this earlier tonight that it's almost hard to put into words how good it was, but I'll try my best.
Right off the bat we learn that William (West), an elderly man living in a North Carolinian town, is planning to end his life by jumping off of a mountain in just under two weeks. He recruits an innocent taxi driver named Solo (Savane), a kindhearted and friendly Senegalese immigrant, to pick him up in the morning for one final journey. When Solo figures out what William is planning he do, he tries to persuade him not to go through with it, and comes up with every imaginable way to prove to him that life is worth living, even in tough conditions. Bahrani's choice to tell the story like this is mesmerizing - it causes the audience to instantly become engaged in Solo's wonderful character.
Red West does do a fine job, but it's Souleymane Sy Savane who really makes this film work. In addition to a great story, the film establishes both of these characters so well and tells their stories so well, that the audience becomes emotionally invested in them. And it's that connection with the characters that makes this such an unforgettable movie and such a riveting one to watch. I've never seen one of Ramin Bahrani's films before, but I'm now a fan of his work. He was able to create such a moving story about such incredible characters and turn it into a fantastic film that was entertaining and emotional to watch.