Nelson (Enrique Bastos) is a trumpet player who has been in the Uruguayan Air Force for over twenty years. Although he is a good musician, he feels unsatisfied because his art has only been displayed in the Air Force, always playing the same tunes. To top it all, he’s been recently dumped by his wife. Which may be compensated for by the possibility of entering a music contest meaning, hopefully, a big break.
But what if he does well at the contest and then the Air Force assigns him to play at a very important event at a base in Antarctica. Would he drop out of the contest in order to fulfill his duty? Or would he continue in it and leave aside his responsibilities? Because sooner or later, that’s exactly the decision he will have to make.
Solo, the opera prima of Uruguayan filmmaker Guillermo Rocamora, is a charmingly understated character study of a lonely man in pursuit of a more satisfying life, instead of being your typical story of a man with a grey life who becomes a star after overcoming all odds. So that’s the first reason that makes a singular feature with an otherwise overworked premise.
The second reason would be it is its tone of general melancholy and bitter-sweetness, which permeates a languid narrative inhabited by laconic beings that always rings true. Little by little you get to know what Nelson is like, what goes on in his heart and mind, what makes him feel alive. But judging from some of his doings, one would presume there are also other sides of him that remain undisclosed. This way, opacity and transparency mix to great effect.
It’s also in the silences and pauses where much of the drama occurs, as the dialogue — inserted when necessary — is somewhat scarce. Instead, there’s an invisible camera that observes the scene and allows viewers to grasp the essence of things. The ending is neither predictable nor forced. It’s the kind of ending that goes well with the dramatic arc of a character silently struggling to make a difference in his own life.
Solo (Uruguay/Argentina/Holland, 2014) Directed by Guillermo Rocamora. With: Enrique Bastos, Fabián Silva, Bartolo Aguilar, Claudia Cantero, Rita Terranova, Marilú Marini. Cinematography: Bárbara Álvarez. Sound: Fabián Oliver, José Luis Díaz. Editing: Juan Ignacio Fernández, Guillermo Rocamora. Produced by Séacuático, Sudestada Cine, Volya Films. Running time: 90 minutes.