A sleepy little drama from first time writer/director Josh Sternfeld, "Winter Solstice" starring Anthony LaPaglia as Jim Winters, a single father looking after sons Gabe (Aaron Stanford) and Pete (Mark Webber) - one of which is in high school but gets into trouble, the other out of high school, with a pretty girlfriend, but not much else.
Obviously, the title describes the state of the characters (not to mention hooks into the last name of the main characters...connnnveeenient), who seem to all be stuck in a rut, or otherwise hibernating. When Molly (Allison Janney) arrives in town, she befriends Jim and they start into something of a relationship. Meanwhile, a teacher (Ron Livington) isn't going to give up on helping Pete when he finds himself in Summer school because of bad grades.
The film does certainly offer good performances from an excellent cast, as LaPaglia, Stanford, Janney, Webber and Livington offer solid efforts. On the other hand, I felt like I'd seen this kind of indie character study quite a few times before. This occurs mostly in the second half, where I started to check off standard scenes as they arrived. To the film's credit, it tries to keep things grounded, but the score sometimes wanders into overly sentimental/sappy territory. The film's slightly subdued and overly somber tone don't exactly keep the attention, although I snow I didn't drift (okay, bad Winter joke) off completely while watching the film.
Overall, "Winter Solstice" manages to catch the attention on occasion due to some fine performances, but the movie really remains fairly uneventful, and despite being only 90 minutes, the movie's pacing starts to drag at times, especially in the second half.
VIDEO: "Winter Solstice" is presented by Paramount in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation isn't one of the better releases from Paramount in recent months. For starters, the picture appears somewhat soft throughout, although some scenes look a bit better than others.
Unfortunately, there are some other flaws to note: some minor edge enhancement is present at times, while a few traces of slight pixelation are also spotted. On a positive note, the print looked to be in fine shape and colors seemed natural and nicely saturated.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 is about as subtle as the rest of the picture. Surrounds are rarely heard, and on the couple of occasions they are, it's only for minor ambience. Dialogue is the focus here, and it comes through clearly, sounding well-recorded.
EXTRAS: Some previews play before the main menu, but there are no actual film-related supplements here.
Final Thoughts: "Winter Solstice" does pull together some fine performances, but they're in service of a story that's not only a bit cliched, but pretty uneventful. Paramount's DVD edition provides okay video quality, fine audio and no supplements. Maybe worth a rental for fans of the actors.