California Solo sees a former Britpop rocker Lachlan MacAldonich (Robert Carlyle), a “moderately lazy Scotsman” – in his own words – facing the threat of deportation from California back to the UK. Indie director Marshall Lewy wrote the script for his film in only 16 days and shot it in less than a month in and around Los Angeles. The role was created specifically for Carlyle although at the time Lewy didn’t know that the actor actually knew lots of ex-rockers from the Britpop scene and could’ve cast one of them. Like its stranded protagonist, this film had to be found, but what a pleasurable surprise – an exhilarating lead performance that seems to hit all the right strings and resonates with powerful writing.
The film is set in a yet unseen side of the Hollywood hills, a sun dried but luxuriant countryside where Lachlan has carefully built a safe nest where he can live untouched by the demons of his past. Once the lead guitarist of a famous British band called The Cranks, he is now the manager of an organic farm where no one knows about his past glory days. The only connection left with that world is the podcast he records by night, “Flame-Outs”, a homage to great musicians who died in tragic circumstances. We do not know whether there is, or has ever been, anyone listening. The only human contact Lachlan has is with Beau (Alexia Rasmussen), a struggling actress who visits the farmers’ market every weekend but, despite an underlying attraction between the two, it never works out.
The vulnerable equilibrium Lachlan has created is first cracked when he is charged with a DUI and faces deportation from the US. The blind fear of having to go back to the UK makes him reach out to every possible resource even if this means digging up his past. In his last attempt to avoid deportation he contacts his estranged ex-wife (Kathleen Wilhoite) and daughter Arianwen (Savannah Lathem) with the hope to prove to the US government that his removal from the country would cause ‘extreme-hardship’.
California Solo is gently paced film, which gives long pauses for the audience to reflect upon and by making Carlyle’s performance the medium by which to tell the story. It’s hard to find these days – an actor who can pull along the whole film with effortless craft, never over-acting nor falling into repetition. This is a truly heartfelt piece, supported by a skilfully nuanced script and cinematography that is perfectly toned with the warm, earthly and sometimes rough-around-the-edges character story of Lachlan MacAldonich. The film was in the official selection for the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and won numerous awards, including Best Feature and Best Editing at the Woodstock Film Festival. California Solo will be released in the UK on the 29th of July on DVD.
Available on VOD and to buy HERE.