SOLACE

Odd Couple

(The 2019 Annapolis Film Festival, out of Annapolis, MD, features 70 films in 4 days and runs March 21-24. Lead critic Chris Reed was on the ground in Austin and has his usual massive slate of reviews and interviews. Stay tuned! Like what you see here on Hammer to Nail? Why not pay just $1.00 per month via Patreon to help keep us going?)

An expansion of writer/director Tchaiko Omawale’s eponymous 2013 short film, Solace tells the story of Sole, a 17-year-old woman sent to live with her estranged grandmother in Los Angeles after her father dies. The two could not be more different, the one an atheist, socially conscious intellectual and stress-eater of junk food (though also a vegan), the other a devout believer, conformist and avid exerciser. All Sole dreams about is returning to New York to study under a beloved professor, with a trip to Sierra Leone as the ultimate prize, while all her grandmother wants her to do is attend church, eat less and go on power walks. The future seems bleak until Sole befriends the rebel next door, Jasmine, a woman of approximately the same age who offers her a way out of her new hell. They each, it turns out, need a little of what the other is offering.

Hope Olaide Wilson (who also starred in the short) is perfectly cast as Sole. The intense focus on issues important to her that will surely make her a passionate activist later in life prevent her from everyday normalized interactions with other people. Chelsea Tavares (Chasing the Blues), as Jasmine, is her seeming opposite, a party gal whose social world constantly interferes in her dreams of becoming a professional dancer, though she also operates at a heightened level of emotional intensity that can scare people away. Between them is Luke Rampersad’s Guedado, a talented musician whose stylish bisexuality is as alluring to Sole as frightening. One thing they all have in common is the loss of a parent, or parents, orphans forced to fend for themselves in a challenging world.

It’s hard to believe this is Omawale’s first feature, so assured is she in her mise-en-scène. Though the film’s narrative is straightforward, she adopts an elliptical approach to her storytelling that beautifully evokes the fits and starts of Sole’s dawning self-actualization. She may be lost as the film begins, but she is not without the tools to find herself. Omawale also effectively weaves in important plot threads about eating disorders and self-harm, organic to both Sole’s and Jasmine’s personal growth. And though Sole’s tone-deaf grandmother (Lynn Whitfield, Somebody’s Child) feels less developed than the other characters, even she experiences a moment of epiphany as she struggles to connect with the daughter of a daughter she long-ago spurned. These vibrant souls may not all find solace in each other’s company, but they try, and in the attempt open themselves up to change. Solace is, indeed, a beautiful thing.

– Christopher Llewellyn Reed (@ChrisReedFilm)

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