And in the end, as well, the film’s resolution doesn’t necessarily go where the audience might expect either. There are no neat bows to tie up the shattered remains of Lachlan’s life, yet it’s not completely bleak. There are no pat answers; it’s a hopeful, yet truthful. Lewy leaves filmgoers with “some sense that he’s evolving and that he is going to go face his past.”
But the final scene may be read as slightly ambiguous, although the director didn't necessarily intend it that way. The final shot of the film has Lachlan cuts off prematurely and abruptly. "We had a camera error and the shot went black at that moment that the film cuts. We kept that as the final cut of the film." When Lewy showed the final cut to Carlyle, the actor thought perhaps his expression made the ending ambiguous (Unfortunately, I can't spoil the end of the movie to say how it actually plays out, or what's ambiguous about it.) However you read the ending, it makes for an interesting segue into the next phase of Lachlan's journey. "It’s almost like and now the story begins," Lewy observed.
California Solo, more than anything, is a carefully drawn character study of a middle-aged man stuck in a 15-year old nightmare much of his own making. To say that Robert Carlyle’s performance is stunning is not hyperbole; it’s simple fact. He’s in nearly every frame of the 97-minute film; we can’t avoid getting pulled into the chaos of his life. One moment, we feel terrible for him; at another, we want to shake him and tell him to grow up, for heaven’s sake!
We want him to find some peace, even as he refuses it in a self-destructive downward spiral intensified by his current problems with immigration. And whether he is wallowing in a drunken stupor of self-pity, raging about his immigration situation, shyly and ineffectively courting a beautiful young woman, or trying to reconnect with a daughter he barely knows, it’s all there played out behind Carlyle’s soulful eyes. He hits every emotional beat true and natural in a brilliant performance.
The actor always manages to find the humanity and vulnerability in every character he plays, but California Solo gives Carlyle the opportunity to exhibit the full range of his mastery. He doesn't miss a beat; none of it feels forced. It is gorgeous, naturalistic acting at its finest.
Lewy wrote the script for California Solo with Carlyle’s voice firmly in his head. “Obviously he is well-known for playing some pretty vicious villains, some pretty intense characters. On the other hand, he has played many very sweet characters,” Lewy observed. “And likable and very charming characters,” he continued, adding that they filmed the movie just as Carlyle was about to start shooting Once Upon a Time, on which that duality is very much a part of his role in the hit ABC series. (He plays Rumplestiltskin.)