22 September 2005 | gradyharp
Solstice - The Longest or the Shortest Day : Pausing as a Voyeur in the Life of a Fractured Family
Josh Sternfeld has done the unthinkable. He has elected to tell a story merely by allowing the viewer to overhear the minimal dialogue of the characters without supplying a linear plot or explanation of how a little family fell apart.
Landscaper Jim Winters (Anthony LaPaglia is a brilliant role) is the single father of two sons - Gabe (Aaron Stanford) who is the older and looking for ways to move away from his boring little small town home to find breathing space in Florida, and Pete (Mark Webber) a confused kid who wears a hearing aide and only sporadically seems to tune in to life and school. The three men live a fairly orderly life since the death 5 years ago of the wife/mother in a car accident which Pete survived. Jim tries to maintain some semblance of family but just cannot quite step out of his ill-defined grief to get a perspective on life. Obviously some forces of change are needed to heal this family of men.
Into the neighborhood moves Molly Ripkin (Allison Janney) who is house sitting for friends while she breaks away from being a paralegal to try her hand at making unique jewelry. She connects with Jim, tries to connect with his sons, but at the least she introduces a figure of gentle concern and focused presence. Pete finds some understanding from a summer school teacher (Ron Livingston) and begins to see some concept of meaning to his life. Gabe's decision to leave for Florida's promise of better life means he also must say goodbye to his only rock of realism - his girlfriend Stacey (Michelle Monaghan). With all of these elements of change in the air the story just ends. What will happen now is left to us to decide.
Yes, the film is slow moving, relying on minimal dialogue and more on silences and gazes. But Sternfeld opens this little family drama in such a tender way that we find ourselves wholly committed to the plight of each character. He makes us care. And that is the true beauty of minimalist art in film-making. The acting is first rate, with LaPaglia and Janney giving performances that deserve attention come awards time. Highly recommended for those who appreciate quiet sensitive films. Grady Harp