‘California Solo,’ reviewed by Marshall Fine


The marvelous Scottish actor Robert Carlyle has been a fixture in films large and small for 20-plus years, but no one has written a part for him that gives him the chance to show his range the way Marshall Lewy has in “California Solo” (opening in limited release Friday, 11/30/12) – at least not since “The Full Monty.” And that was 15 years ago.

As Lachlan MacAldonich, Carlyle plays a captivating waster, a guy who makes a mistake that upends his world, bringing out his worst tendencies toward self-sabotage. And yet Carlyle instills a sweetness in Lachlan that forces you to care about him, even as he does that next thing that could ultimately trip him up.

He’s actually pretty happy when we first see him: working as manager of a farm in Antelope Valley, north of Los Angeles, dealing with irrigation and harvest during the day, having a few drinks at night, recording a podcast in his spare time about famous flameouts in the history of music. But one night, a few drinks lead to a drunk-driving charge, which triggers something even bigger.

It turns out that Lachlan, in a previous life, was part of a rising Brit-pop band of the early 1990s called the Cranks, a group that fell apart just as it was starting to peak. Lachlan’s brother was the band’s singer and its star, while Lachlan was the lead guitarist. After the band’s demise, Lachlan drifted for years, working as a solo artist and, eventually, finding his way to the job with the farmer (A Martinez) that’s kept him going the past few years.

He likes it – but his arrest triggers an immigration check, which unearths an ancient pot bust. Despite his green card, Lachlan discovers he is now an undesirable alien, threatened with deportation.

This review continues on my website.

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