Rated: R Reviewed by: Jim Release date: April 22, 2005 Released by: Paramount Pictures Corporation
This domestic drama from newcomer Josh Sternfeld has a quiet, emotional pull to it, but the situations pieced together hardly amount to much of a plot.
Still, Winter Solstice has a measured, understated quality, led by fine Australian character actor Anthony LaPaglia, known for his roles as heavies. He is a single dad and runs a landscaping business in a New Jersey suburb.
The script, also by Sternfeld, gradually focuses on LaPaglia's confrontational relationships with sons Pete (Mark Webber) - an underachieving high school student, and older Gabe (Aaron Sanford) - who works in a grocery store and has plans to move to Florida.
Not much happens in terms of intimate conversation, when it comes to a chore or goofing around. One big fight will occur, but there are gestures, looks, and plenty of pauses, which many art houses might find to be inviting somnolence.
The overriding wistfulness revolves around the loss of the Winters' mother and wife without any mention of her. It acts as a framework from which the characters expressing their grief and heartbreak without plotting that might trigger some noticeable change or realization.
The subordinate characters include Allison Janney ("The West Wing"), as a perky new neighbor, Michelle Monaghan (The Bourne Supremacy) as Gabe's girlfriend, and Ron Livingston as a bright, unorthodox summer school teacher.
The title's pun takes on an ironic, laconic heartache that fits the static realism and the emotional landscape nourished by the brooding restraint of LaPaglia who nearly equals his work in the densely poignant Lantana.