Thursday, October 28, 2021

Review: ‘Solos’ Is a Poignant, Striking, and Unique Emotional Journey

Amazon Studios’ latest creation, Solos, has officially landed on Prime Video. Created by David Weil and bolstering an impressive lineup of talented actors with a unique premise, Solos is a seven-part anthology series that dives deep into the idea of what it means to be human, and the emotions that concept entails, through a kaleidoscope of interconnected stories.

Though the individual episodic scope of Solos is quite limited, with most episodes taking place on a single set with just one or two actors, this does nothing to dim the shine or potential of the series. Rather, the restricted focus provides the ideal playing field for repeatedly cultivating an ardent stew of heightened emotions throughout each chapter, all while diligently holding the audience’s attention.

Starring Uzo Aduba, Nicole Beharie, Morgan Freeman, Anne Hathaway, Anthony Mackie, Helen Mirren, Dan Stevens, and Constance Wu, Solos is a brilliant example of how a synergistic marriage between an impeccably written script and an all-star cast is one of the most important facets of a successful piece of film or television. A rabid onslaught of special effects, vast landscapes, and miles of extras mean nothing when they’re supported by a weak foundation. All that Solos needed was its necessary core ingredients, and voilà: a simple recipe for success.

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Warning: Spoilers beyond this point!

One of the strongest and most memorable things about Solos is its approach to storytelling. Each episode asks audiences to spend 20 to 30 minutes with an actor (or two), and the events that take place are in real time. Therefore, the attention of viewers cannot be won over by skipping around to different scenes. Instead, we take a peek into a snapshot of a particular point in a character’s life, and the script itself incorporates both the backstory and current trajectory of each person in an unobtrusive, delicate manner. This type of approach can oftentimes fall victim to the trap of overuse of exposition, which is where the skill of the actors themselves then comes into play.

Jason LaVeris/Amazon Studios

The cast is tasked with both connecting with their environment and tapping into their raw, innate dialogue skills in order to deliver lines with a cadence and rhythm that illustrates an unseen story. In episode 4, “Sasha,” Aduba delivers her monologue with the unbridled, desperate passion of a theater performer, standing on-stage and putting on a profound one-woman show. The reveal that her isolated existence is born of a fear to return to normal life in the aftermath of a pandemic is also chillingly relevant, and a stark reminder of the fragile mental state that many will find themselves in throughout the coming months and years in our own real world today.

Meanwhile, the challenge rises tenfold in Mackie and Hathaway’s episodes, in which both are tasked with pulling double duty (or triple, in Hathway’s case!) acting with themselves amongst an internal battleground of trauma, love, sadness, desperation, and hope. Both also manage to effectively weave a variety of nuances into the separate versions of themselves, which in turn establishes the fact that these are distinct characters that just so happen to be played by the same actor.

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The brilliance of these bottled stories that all take place within the same universe, alongside the equally captivating episodes starring Mirren, Wu, and Beharie, are the unique journeys that they each take viewers on as the deeper secrets of how they came to be in their current state are revealed. Mirren’s Peg, who ended up being the daughter of Mackie’s Tom, tells a sobering, somber tale as she reflects back on her life. Meanwhile, Wu’s Jenny spirals from unhinged to heartbreaking when the curtain falls and we learn that she’s in purgatory. Beharie’s episode was an especially intriguing mixture of both horror and sci-fi with a surprisingly compassionate ending.

Jason LaVeris/Amazon Studios

The final episode, “Stuart,” was a splendid, heavy-hitting culmination of the six stories leading up to it. Freeman and Stevens are both notably talented in their own right, but together they demonstrated a palpable, crackling chemistry that elevated the finale to the next level, ultimately giving the series the dignified and polished sendoff that it deserved. As all of the pieces fall together when we learn that Freeman’s Stuart has stolen the memories of each of the people whose stories we have previously watched, the audience is then able to directly experience the agonizing and tragic reality of what he’s done through Stevens’ strikingly expressive eyes as he alone grieves for the loss of his precious few years with his mother. And though episode 7 is a beautifully simplistic set with a plush couch on a deserted beach, Freeman and Stevens each tap into their extensive voice acting skills and utilize the necessary inflection to paint an especially vivid picture of the sentimental memories that they’re discussing.

I finished Solos with an abundant appreciation not only for the cast and the connective plot, but also the unyielding and unfiltered honesty and wittiness of the scripts that led each story. This made each character feel more real, down-to-earth, and relatable, because they’re only human, after all. Solos is a layered, thought-provoking, and unique emotional series that will effortlessly warm your heart and subsequently tear it apart, but it’s justifiably worth it in order to experience the clever and compelling journeys of its characters.

Solos is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

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Lindsey
Lindsey joined the Nerds and Beyond team in 2018. She has spent a large portion of her life dedicated to her first love, photography. When she's not behind the camera, she's likely reading books and comics or dabbling in creative writing. Otherwise, she's probably yelling about something Star Wars or Marvel related on Twitter @lindyysolo. Contact: lindsey@nerdsandbeyond.com

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