Martin Carr reviews the Amazon anthology series Solos…
Comparisons to Black Mirror are inevitable, but Amazon’s new anthology show Solos avoids tipping over into pitch black satire by giving events a softer edge. Creator David Weil, who is best known for Amazon’s Hunters, employs his star studded cast with care ruminating on universal themes, whilst subverting audience expectations.
This feels like a spiritual successor to perennial television staple Talking Heads. Playwright Alan Bennett penned a series of straight to camera monologues in the late Eighties, where each actor was given time alone to build character through conversation. Although the direct to camera delivery is mostly lacking, a sense of theatre bleeds through in its tight run time. High concept storylines which incorporate time travel, end of life options and lost opportunities all require investment. Each episode is named, each one uses a single location and all feel intimate.
Anne Hathaway and Anthony Mackie address the notion of second chances, in opening gambits that embrace our need for closure. Moral and ethical conundrums come through in this first hour, as fractured relationships, personal sacrifice and self-image are all challenged. Both are afforded an opportunity to explore several sides of the same coin, building moment to moment without any interruptions. Mathematical equations and science fiction theory meld with mundane self-reflections, as their stories are unpacked in tangible environments.
In each episode, creator David Weil is asking some deeply personal questions of an audience who just want entertaining. Issues of memory and self are prevalent throughout, as these traits often come to shape our perception of ourselves and others. Personal interpretation is dissected, as is our understanding of opportunities and whether we grasp them. That may sound like fanciful rubbish, but at its heart Solos is asking these questions. No more so, than in a third instalment featuring Dame Helen Mirren.
With a strong Stanley Kubrick vibe and a Dame decked out in space age attire, Peg is elegantly acted and dramatically engaging. No distractions, no deviations and no opportunity for showboating are given. Perpetually seated and facing front, this space age Alan Bennett throwback is intentionally nostalgic. Generational attitudes, a desire for recognition and an understated performance of heart wrenching honesty are packed into a limited time. Nuance, pathos and a fragile sense of moments lost to time come through effortlessly. A testament to the numerous creative elements which come together and bring this performance from script to screen.
Thematic ties to Michael Almereyda’s Marjorie Prime and Michael Bay’s The Island are worth noting, as is Amazon’s Tales From The Loop. Both as companion pieces to this show and as examples of mainstream feature films exploring deeper issues. That Solos is able to distil these big screen ideas into a small screen format without losing anything in translation should be celebrated. Creator David Weil takes seemingly disparate individuals and unifies them through a shared experience. A noble pursuit aided in no small measure by the silky tones of an omnipotent Morgan Freeman.
Solos launches on Amazon Prime Video on May 21st.