Ruben is a down and out guy escaping to a remote cabin in the cold Michigan winter. Depressed, anxious and suicidal, he monologues on the moribund details of his life. His marriage is on the rocks, he is a writer without a job and he’s depressed about the death of his close friend Brian. The remote family cabin provides a good place for Ruben to be alone, drink lots of beer and as Ruben notes, ‘ The best place for a depressed suicidal is severe isolation in sub zero temperature’. After a couple of weeks in the cold he is visited by his friend Jack who is concerned about Ruben but not necessarily understanding.
The movie makes a good use of the desolate setting, and almost immediately Rueben begins to see and hear things. A condition that worsens as Jack pushes him to confront his past and return to civilization. These are best scenes of the movie including one night time jaunt, Blair Witch style, that’s very effective. Rather than actually kill himself, Ruben performs the daily mundane details of cabin life, he chops wood, fixes a roof, bathes in a creek and drinks all while narrating the various events that contribute to his isolation.
This narration is the main problem with the film. So much of the story is given away in the voice over that it becomes tedious. Film is a visual art and there is enough skill in the acting and cinematography here to make me believe that there had to be a better way to tell the story then a long, occasionally interrupted monologue. The few flashback scenes between Ruben and his wife, and Ruben and Brian rarely reveal anything that Ruben hasn’t already disclosed. By the time we are shown the flashback to Brian’s death it’s anticlimactic, we know what’s going to happen, we just didn’t have the details. ‘Solitude’ has a lot going for it, the premise is interesting and the remote Michigan location is the most interesting character in the film. Unfortunately, it’s ultimately undone because the choice to narrate the film gives everything away and bogs down the main character rather then letting the acting, cinematography, and location tell the story.