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Midlife Crisis of the Britpunk Kind



‘California Solo,’ by Marshall Lewy, With Robert Carlyle
Directed by Marshall Lewy
1 hour 34 minutes; not rated

Ever since the Scottish actor Robert Carlyle swaggered into our consciousness as the star of Ken Loach’s 1991 gem, “Riff-Raff,” his snaggletoothed grin and bowlegged gait — suggesting he rode the streets of his native Glasgow on a horse instead of a bus — have hopscotched across genres with impressive ease.
He has played his share of hard men but is often at his best exuding charm rather than menace. In “California Solo,” a wry, mournful study of midlife crisis, he’s Lachlan, a onetime darling of the Britpunk scene driven by past tragedy to a farm outside Los Angeles. Content to grow vegetables and, in the evenings, deliver a boozy podcast about gone-too-soon musicians, Lachlan is what most movies would present as a fixer-upper: a battered talent aching for a romantic makeover.
But although the film’s writer and director, Marshall Lewy, teases us with this possibility, he’s after something much more shaded and unpredictable. So when Lachlan must confront a former spouse (Kathleen Wilhoite) and an all-but-estranged daughter (a very touching Savannah Lathem), Mr. Lewy neatly sidesteps the fissure of redemption. Rather than warm our hearts in conventional ways, this mellow drama simply proposes that when men screw up, the love of a good woman only goes so far.

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