Review by Gordon Justesen
Anthony LaPaglia, Aaron Stanford, Mark Webber, Allison Janney, Michelle
Monaghan, Ron Livingston
Director: Josh Sternfeld
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 90 Minutes
Release Date: September 13, 2005
A film like Winter
Solstice should get some level of credit for being observant in its
characters. It paints a portrait of a family trying to come together in the
aftermath of tragedy. Had the film been structured in an alternate way, we may
have had something here.
In the mean time,
what lies here is a family drama that doesnít accomplish anything that a
superior piece like Ordinary People
didnít accomplish more than twenty years ago. The story involves the Winters
family, whoís constantly in denial of their domestic problems brought forth by
the death of the mother of the family. Jim Winters (Anthony LaPaglia) is the
widow, and it seems as if heís lost a certain grasp on his two sons, Gabe
(Aaron Stanford) and Pete (Mark Webber).
Jim easily assumes
that, illustrated by their lack of communication, his sons blame him for the
loss, which is almost always the case. However, the fact is Pete was with the
mother in the very auto accident that claimed her life. That was five years ago,
and the family has drifted apart ever since.
Jim is determined
to do whatever he can to bring the family back together, though he faces
obstacles concerning his two sons. Peteís grades in high school arenít
something to shout about and he soon finds himself in summer school. Jim
addresses this to his son and advises him to think about straightening up his
academics so he can graduate high school
The bigger obstacle
concerns the oldest son, Gabe, who has announced to his father, as well as
devoted girlfriend, Stacey (Michelle Monaghan), that he intends to move down to
Tampa, which wouldnít qualify so much as bad news if he had any actual life
goals. He doesnít; heís simply moving there to room with a friend, and feels
that sunny Tampa would be better than any other place to live.
The only thing that
brightens Jimís life is the arrival of a new neighbor. Her name is Molly
(Allison Janney) and her likable charm catches his attention. After helping her
move into her home, she invites him over for dinner He needs this sort of thing
in his life since he hasnít looked at another woman in the five years since.
I almost feel
guilty in not giving this film a full out pass since it does have all the
elements for a perfect quiet drama. The flaw with Winter
Solstice lies solely in its structuring. New subplots seem to arrive just
when weíre focused on another problem in the story. At with a 90 minute
running time, too many intersecting plotlines could easily result in flaws, as
is the case here.
Josh Sternfeld has what it takes to make a superb character driven film. Itís
a good thing that most critics have praised this film, it will give Sternfeld a
second shot, and hopefully a better one. The one thing that he should keep in
mind is constructing a more effective story arc the next time around.
handling from Paramount is nicely executed in its quiet look. The suburban
setting appears terrifically in the picture. Though youíll have to excuse
brief flaws in a couple of dark sequences, this presentation is, for the most
part, wonderfully handled with exceptional colors.
The 5.1 mix does do
what it can with such a pure dialogue-driven film. Words are heard most
wonderfully, and the presentation does get a boost from a lively acoustic score
by composer John Leventhal. Not a sound mix to blow one away, but one that will
no doubt satisfy the viewer.
This disc contains
only a lineup of bonus previews.