Solos is set in a futuristic world… Where technology has not just taken over our lives, but is de facto life. However, even in this hi-tech dystopian world, where gadgets are facilitators, often companions too, what matters above all are emotions, love, the need for human touch.
Around this sublime thought are woven seven stories, most of which are a brilliant interplay of acting and writing. With individual episodes headlined by the likes of Academy Award winners Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, Anne Hathaway and other talented actors such as Anthony Mackie, Dan Stevens and Constance Wu, the seven acts might be stand-alone pieces. Yet there is an underlining connection.
The obvious thematic link is loneliness, which all of us are experiencing today. But that is not the only thread. Rather, there are many layers within layers and if you look and listen carefully, you will find a timeline and a solid link between the characters of the first three episodes and, of course, the last one.
An over-ebullient Anne Hathaway, as scientist Leah placed in 2024 opens the sci-fi anthology. With Hathaway playing versions of Leah (in different timelines), if time travel is the leitmotif so is the conflict between ambitions and emotions. Most episodes are soliloquies and only a couple include co-actors. But even when more than one actor is the raconteur, the story-telling is steered by writing and acting and not drama ‘drama’.
Juxtaposing technology with basic human emotions, not all seven acts are on the same keel. Our favourite is Peg by Helen Mirren. Telling us the story of a Peg in her seventies who has opted for a space programme, this one is an acute case study of human alienation. What one would do to be counted/ seen as a person? She may question; why didn’t he see me, you see the actor in her in full element. As a host of expressions flit across Mirren’s face, she keeps you engrossed with her immeasurable talent. Sitting on a chair, her journey from teenage years to middle ones to the final endgame is worth your time. Death indeed is a recurring leitmotif. For don’t we all learn life’s biggest lessons, rather how to live life in the face of death? The episode Tom is on the same lines. Here the titular character played by Anthony Mackie has a heart-to-heart with his clone/robot and arrives at similar conclusions. However, unlike Mirren depicted as nobody, he brings to us a portrait of worldly success. But what is success really and what truly makes us lucky?
While a hint of intrigue touches all episodes, it is more palpable in Nera (Nicole Beharie) where a new-born baby grows into a man within hours. But once again the underlying allegory alludes to more than what you see and packs in acceptance of children as they are. Sasha will remind you of the paranoia that is gripping us all right now and Constance Wu as Jenny (after Peg) is yet another master-class in acting. Wu playing a childless woman gives you goose-bumps. It’s almost as if she is wearing the fragility/ vulnerability of her self-destructive character on her face.
Of course, Solos streaming on Amazon Prime Video is complex and demands your complete attention. Writing its core strength runs the danger of turning verbose, but rarely does. In the hands of actors of the calibre of Freeman, Mirren and Wu, it becomes a kaleidoscope where emotions, ideas, memories collide and coalesce. The concluding part is about a memory thief Stuart (Morgan Freeman) and his victim Otto (Dan Stevens), whose memory has been stolen. Stuart maps the part memory plays in making us who we are. The final shot nay hug in this particular episode is a summation of what Solos truly cares to underline; we are connected through shared experiences even when we are alone. No wonder, the series offers you a collective experience of a gamut of emotions. Fear, anxiety, regret, control and finally an embrace tops it all. Indeed, the anthology may not qualify as easy entertainment and calls for a certain degree of patience. But if you are ready to submerge in the cesspool of innovative ideas, it will leave you with enough thoughts on how we ought to cherish life.