The director Ramin Bahrani creates two identical characters with opposing goals. One wants to help and the other doesn’t want to be helped. Early in the film we understand what’s going to happen. The clash is inevitable. Bahrani’s direction treats them equally and doesn’t take anyone’s side. The one who will not accept anyone’s help is a man who decides to punish himself for personal reasons and has every right to do so. If he manages to get out of this psychological trap he will do it by himself. He will not need a deus ex machina.
The other one wants to help. He tries to take it upon himself to overturn the decision of his friend. This alone shows that he is also a defective character since he doesn’t respect the other’s decision and has the internal need to feel like his friend’s resolution. Their battle has deeper implications. While at first it seems to be about male selfishness, in deeper detail emerges a basic, self-destructive characteristic of the male sex. The need to leave one’s personal mark on the world is destructive when it becomes an end in itself.
The film analyzes successfully one of the classic male dilemmas and lets the viewer decide what would be the right response. People who go about doing good deeds in their everyday lives in a pathological way are not much different from those who try to do the opposite. Both reactions stem from an internal need to enter a predictable ideological framework where one can feel comfortable and will once again retreat from the unexpected mystery of human existence. Bahrani manages to bring life into both characters and the two leads make it look effortless. Goodbye Solo is one of those powerful films that doesn’t look powerful at first but builds up their characters as they go along, climaxing in an unforgettable final scene.