Written expressly for star Robert Carlyle with no idea how to even get the script to him, Marshall Lewy’s California Solo reimagines the cult Scottish actor from Trainspotting as a cult Scottish rocker from the fictional Britpop band The Cranks. Depressed and wracked with guilt over a gradually revealed past, Lachlan MacAldonich (Carlyle) now works on an organic farm outside of Los Angeles by day and drowns his sorrows at the bar by night. Carlyle gives a nuanced performance as a man trying (and failing) to keep his head down so he can live out his days quietly in his adopted country—perhaps too nuanced, as the character’s overall arc amounts to a blip of resignation.
After living in the United States for 12 years on a green card that makes him a permanent legal resident, Lachlan is picked up for a DUI that, along with an old drug charge, threatens to deport him. Setting aside for the moment the unlikelihood that such a heavy drinker in such a small town could make it this long without any prior drunk-driving arrests, his predicament introduces him—and the viewer—to labyrinthine immigration law.
He might be able to stay stateside if he can prove his departure would cause “extreme hardship” on a loved one. Problem is, he’s long been estranged from his wife and teenage daughter. Meanwhile, he strikes up an unlikely friendship with young, beautiful Beau (Alexia Rasmussen), who regularly shops at his farmers market stall, and her DJ boyfriend, Paul (Danny Masterson).
As Lachlan’s legal and personal situations progress, one suspects he’s the victim of a scam—either by one of his two expensive lawyers or by Beau and Paul, the latter of whom is desperate to get the pseudo-celebrity to attend an upcoming event. But alas, the only scammer is Lachlan himself, as he whips out government paperwork within seconds of reuniting with his sympathetic daughter. He’s the dirtbag here, and to Carlyle’s credit as a performer, he looks the part—you can practically smell him off the screen.
In the end, there’s no conspiracy and little drama other than what’s already happened in Lachlan’s past. The climax merely reveals why he’s afraid to return home and his coming to terms with it. Lovely cinematography of California farmland and Carlyle’s subtle work aren’t enough to hold one’s attention.
Director: Marshall Lewy
Writer: Marshall Lewy
Starring: Robert Carlyle, Alexia Rasmussen, Kathleen Wilhoite, A. Martinez, Michael des Barres, Danny Masterson
Release Date: Nov. 30, 2012