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Solos Anthology Review: A half-effective meditative take on memories- Cinema express

Solos Anthology Review: A half-effective meditative take on memories

Strong performances elevate this sci-fi drama from being ordinary 

Published: 21st May 2021

The pandemic has drummed in us a real, running dread of death and isolation. While the former ends memories for good, the latter unboxes in your head even those memories you wish you didn't have to acknowledge. What if those dreaded experiences could be turned into insightful, meditative discourses? This seed of an idea may well have been the trigger for Solos' creator David Weil, who has also written and directed a couple of its episodes in this anthology.

Directors: David Weil, Sam Taylor-Johnson, Zach Braff, Tiffany Johnson

Cast: Morgan Freeman, Anne Hathaway, Helen Mirren, Uzo Aduba, Anthony Mackie, Constance Wu, Dan Stevens, Nicole Beharie

Going by the chronological order of its episodes, Solos feels almost like a metaphor for life. It has a sprightly start, becomes energetic along the way, goes through a dip, leaves us puzzled for a while and when it halts, finally, all events start to make sense.

All the episodes of Solos could have easily been turned into theatre plays, as they majorly centre on a single performer and a contained location. The setting, however, is futuristic, and the location, picturesque as it mostly is, justifies the decision to turn this content into OTT content. The strong technical crew also ensures that when you see ambitious visuals, like, say, a spaceship wandering across the moon or a time traveller interacting with her future self, you buy these ideas without doubt.

The writing adds plenty of responsibility on the actors' shoulders. Less efficient performances, especially for this content, might have spelled disaster, but there is no such problem in this anthology. The impact left by each of the films is rather inconsistent though.

Constance Wu aces with her effortless, efficient portrayal of the perplexed, grey and vulnerable Jean. This character with angelic appearance gets a contrasting introduction as someone with evil desires, but when an unexpected twist hits, we are left in tears. Despite being in the heaviest of all stories, Constance carries the role with elan and makes the rapid transition of her character feel organic.

Anthony Mackie's Tom and Helen Mirren's Peg are introspections on life that are hard not to be enchanted by. Macroscopically, both segments are about unspoken conversations and unrealised wishes. The former is the tale of a young man who has much to do within limited time, while the other is about an old lady who has time on her hand but nothing to look forward to. Mackie and Mirren sell their roles so well that even the biggest Falcon or Queen fan out there should have no trouble seeing them for who they are.

While the depth of the tale serves to uplift the aforementioned performances, the sheer lack of it does a disservice to the efforts of Anne Hathaway in Leah and Morgan Freeman in Stuart. The stories seem to lack a focal point, resulting in the emotions feeling superficial. Freeman's Stuart (the final episode), intended to connect the dots with the rest, doesn't quite serve the purpose and perhaps if the actor with 'voice of god' was left to perform alone this story could have been effective.

Nicole Beharie's Nera rides solely on shock value. And in an attempt to develop the mystery surrounding the labour of Nera, we are kept away from necessary details that might have helped us forge a personal connection with her. This is counterproductive to the segment and leaves you restless, wanting more.

During a crucial scene in Solos, a character shares that they used the memories of others to rewrite their own. Thinking about the merits of this anthology, you could well take it as a cue to let the good taste of the effective episodes override the bitterness of the others. I know I will.

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