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Overall Rating
3.79

Awesome: 21.05%
Worth A Look: 36.84%
Average42.11%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

2 reviews, 7 user ratings


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Winter Solstice
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by Jason Whyte

"All in the family."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2004 VANCOUVER FILM FESTIVAL. "Winter Solstice" is a quiet and intimate character story that reminded me somewhat of "The Station Agent" in 2003; a film that was about the characters that came into a person's life and made him all the better for it. It was a small story that was just about people and nothing more, and it resonates because of its realism and honesty. In this film, director/writer John Sternfeld, in his feature debut, has created a likable story from small means, and has even brought in interesting talent to the table as well.

The story is very simple. Jim Winters (Anthony LaPaglia from "Without a Trace") is a Widower living in New Jersey. His two sons, Pete (Mark Webber) and Gabe (Aaron Stanford) are somewhat alike and get along, but Gabe wants nothing more than to leave his factory job and move to Miami ("Where it's warm") despite the objection of his girlfriend Stacey (Michelle Monaghan). Jim is stuck in summer school with a little chance of future, only wanting to hang out with his burnout friends. The relationship between the kids and father is quiet and restrained; rare do they actually say what is on their minds, rather they would just let things build up unresolved.

Characters come in and out of their lives. There's a housesitting neighbor named Molly (Allison Janney) who is like the Bobby Canavale character in "Station Agent", open and wanting to connect with the people around her, no matter what. There's an amusing scene where Molly brings back a moving dolly that she borrows from Jim, where she has a conversation with Pete and a friend that just smacks of discomfort. "I'd love to have all of you for dinner," she says, then looking at the unrelated friend and saying "You can come along too if you'd like." Later on, Molly becomes close to Jim not just in a romantic way, but also someone who can listen well to Jim and help him through his problems. There's also the scene-stealing Ron Livingston who plays Pete's kind summer-school teacher, who has some amusing moments as he tries to help Pete out of his anti-school funk.

What I admired the most about the film is the honesty of the characters. I don't want to start off on another tangent and say this is a great anthesis to all the usual Hollywood Blockbuster Garbage (because not all of it is; I gave a warm recommendation to "Sky Captain" just last week), but the film works exactly as what it is. Sternfeld really does have a love for all of these characters and wants to show them, flaws and all. It certainly helps with such a strong cast; LaPaglia is terrific playing the tormented father, and Standford and Webber both really do come across like real, conflicted brothers, and it's not just because of their physical similarities. And although a small part, Michelle Monaghan does solid work as Gabe's girlfriend.

"Winter Solstice" isn't a perfect film, with a few unnecessary scenes that tend to drag and a low-budget look, but I really do think we need more films of this caliber from time to time, something to remind us that we can all be happy despite our problems as long as we work things out with the friends and family around us.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=9176&reviewer=350
originally posted: 09/25/04 02:40:31
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Tribeca Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Tribeca Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Mill Valley Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Mill Valley Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Philadelphia Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Brisbane Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Brisbane Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

3/27/08 Jack Sommersby Slight but fairly appealing and interesting. Good performances help. 3 stars
4/13/05 David Subtle, with great characterizations 4 stars
4/01/05 Robert e excellent - a low key, honest, but intense and satisfying film 5 stars
3/31/05 Gillian A wonderfully moving film that allows the audience to grow with the characters. 5 stars
2/13/05 Bob brilliant 5 stars
5/13/04 Kevin Great acting, but painfully slow 3 stars
4/10/04 Tom Plott Great Film!! Wonderful acting & directing!! 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  08-Apr-2005 (R)
  DVD: 13-Sep-2005

UK
  N/A

Australia
  24-Nov-2005




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