What does it mean to be human? The age-old philosophical question is interrogated during times of existential crisis. If there’s one recent period that has recontextualised our collective and individual identities, it was the global Covid-19 pandemic. Amazon’s anthology series Solos is a direct response to the events of the past year. But instead of situating its characters in the current world, we find them isolated in futuristic circumstances.
Seven half-hour episodes focus on distinct characters played by actors we all know and love, including Morgan Freeman, Anne Hathaway and Uzo Aduba. Each of them deals with personal issues that unveil themselves through self-reflection within unique sci-fi backdrops – Peg (Helen Mirren) is travelling far into the galaxy whilst recounting her life on Earth, Tom (Anthony Mackie) is confronting the clone who will succeed him, Sasha (Uzo Aduba) is challenging her smart home, etc. None of these people are connected through story but through theme. By focusing on them in vulnerable moments alone and listening to them assess their histories and recollect intense memories, we examine the human condition.
Solos looks brilliant with its uniformly excellent production design and high-end special effects, but writer-director David Weil (creator of fellow Prime Video show Hunters) strips the artifice of cutting-edge tech to reach the nucleus of human behaviour. Raw emotions are coated in expensive clothes. It’s mostly successful in its audacious goal but, as typical in anthologies, some entries are simply far more compelling than others in the way they engage with the central questions of meaning and purpose.
Furthermore, it may be a hard sell to some that this show is an assembly of dialogue-heavy chamber pieces. The sitcom-typical length promises to sustain the focus of such viewers but, nonetheless, it’s a more impenetrable exercise compared to similar art in the same realm such as Black Mirror and Cloud Atlas. Recruiting actors who could still command an audience’s attention even if they were reading out a telephone book is a sagacious move for the ambition here. However, it can feel as if the performances are calling too much attention to themselves thanks to dense material that requires them to bounce around the emotional spectrum.
Overall, though, Solos is a compellingly pertinent study on isolation and virtual spaces of connection. The intangible connections here – A.I., clones, avatars – provide a space for catharsis that feels all too real when considering our relationship with technology.
Solos is released on Amazon Prime Video on 21st May 2021.
Watch the trailer for Solos here: