A review of “Winter Solstice” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: R for profanity and mature themes

Run Time: 1 hour, 33 minutes

 

 

Anthony LaPaglia headlines this nicely realized family drama that feels like half of a great movie.

Jim Winters (LaPaglia) is struggling to raise two teenage boys on a gardener’s salary and without the benefit of a wife or mother. Gabe (Aaron Stanford) is the mature one, carrying the bulk of the responsibility on his slim shoulders and quietly resenting the hell out of his domestic prison.

Pete (Mark Webber) is a different story – rebellious, withdrawn and virtually failing out of high school.  The Winters clan lead a wait-and-see existence, borne of poor communication and concealed grief.

Enter neighborhood housesitter Molly Ripkin (Allison Janney), an attractive breath of fresh air who moves in down the block and attempts to strike up a friendship with Jim and his boys.

Solstice is one of those lovely, quiet dramas that slooooowly unravels layers of pain and frustration and drops tiny trails of clues as to the status quo. An admirable form of narrative that toes a very fine line between dramatization and frustration.

Director Josh Sternfeld walks that line with aplomb, keeping the onscreen activity fresh enough to maintain interest but playing his cards close to the vest. 

The ending is abrupt and unexpected; I was left wanting more.  More of the burgeoning romance between Jim and Molly, more of what life holds for three men who are breaking out of a hard shell of pain and learning to love again. Lacking serious conflict but awash in genuine integrity, Solstice is understatement personified.