California Solo

California Solo

***1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Robert Carlyle makes a welcome return to the big screen in this gentle character study. He brings a melancholy dourness to the lead role of Lachlan MacAldonich - an emigre Scot in the US, whose brief flurry of fame in the rock world is a memory kept from fading by a tragedy that can't be forgotten. Now living somewhere just north of the breadline, he spends his days working on a farm and his nights attempting to drown his guilt by drinking heavily in the local bars and then recording podcasts about famous rockers who met an untimely end.

After a night of particularly heavy whisky wallowing, Lachlan gets caught drink-driving and discovers that even though he has lived in the US for decades, an ancient conviction for pot possession could lead to a one-way ticket back to Kilmarnock. The only hope, his lawyer tells him, is to prove that his departure would cause someone close to him hardship. With potential love interest Beau (Alexia Rasumussen, who has shades of Drew Barrymore) the only thing in his current life that comes close to connection, he is forced to confront his past - and his ex-wife (Kathleen Wilhoite) and daughter (Savannah Latham) - if he is to avoid deportation.

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While Marshall Lewy's narrative has a tendency to dawdle and he could do with more power to his ballad, he nonetheless steers a delicate path around both dodgy drunk and indie relationship cliches. He also avoids the trite path to redemption, choosing instead to keep this a study of man in midlife crisis, understated and realistic. Away from the dramatics, Lewy also pulls some unusual questions about immigration - rarely considered from the point of view of emigres whose first language is English - gently into the light and invites us to consider them. Technically, however, the film feels scrappy in places with the editing and lip synch proving distracting at times, and though the scoring by T Griffin is lilting and low key, the title song by Adam Franklin feels slight.

Carlyle is the key to the film's attraction, however, leavening the self-centred Lachlan with thinly veiled grief and a dawning realisation of the need to change.

Reviewed on: 17 Jun 2012
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An ageing, faded Britpop star is forced to confront his past if he wants to avoid deportation from the US.
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