Mixed or average reviews - based on 28 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 14 out of 28
  2. Negative: 2 out of 28
  1. As quietly dazzling as a small, very precious stone.
  2. A realistic drama that looks and feels as inevitably true and moving as a good documentary.
  3. All three men turn in superb and understated performances.
  4. A high-wire act, treading a thin line of truth between hokum and homilies. You hold your breath, waiting to see if the filmmakers misstep, but they never do.
  5. 83
    The title is too cutesy and clever, but it's about the only unsubtle aspect of this poignant, humble drama that'll probably get lost amid the multiplex bombast, but shouldn't.
  6. Reviewed by: David Rooney
    Story of a still-grieving widower and his two troubled teenage sons is distinguished by its emotional integrity, sustained mood of aching melancholy and superbly understated performances.
  7. 80
    Beautifully unemphatic small-town drama.
  8. Sternfeld has created a garden on film that opens up its blooms for us, not in the dark of the movie house, but long after we've left the theater.
  9. Reviewed by: Kyle Smith
    A well-built machine that dunks you into a big warm vat of sadness. There's no plot: It's a situation drama. Instead of punch lines, it delivers regular shots of heartbreak.
  10. Very little actually happens in the movie. There are no cathartic breakdowns or soul-changing epiphanies. Instead, we're offered a collection of small moments that feel so familiar, they remind us how false most films really are.
  11. 75
    The movie is not plot-driven, for which we must be thankful, because to force their feelings into a plot would be a form of cruelty. The whole point is that these lives have no plot.
  12. The boys, particularly Mr. Webber as Pete, are astonishingly good, and Ms. Monaghan, who looks like a slightly more tomboyish Liv Tyler, makes a deep impression in a minor role. Mr. LaPaglia, of the television series "Without a Trace," brings a tender gravity to the shell-shocked Jim.
  13. Sternfeld's approach is rigorously minimalist, which is a plus since the Winters family is in no way extraordinary or distinctive.
  14. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    I can't think of too many actors who could bring off Jim Winters. LaPaglia manages to convey, wordlessly, the man's inner struggle.
  15. 60
    What makes Winter Solstice, a nice little Jersey vignette about a widower and his two teenage sons, so striking is writer-director Josh Sternfeld's respect for the verbal shorthand of family interaction.
  16. Sternfeld not only deals empathically with his cast, he seems to know that his screenplay is not very novel or stirring; nonetheless, he wants to present these human beings in their skins, so to speak.
  17. It's not sleepy, it's comatose, and writer/director Josh Sternfeld never wakes it up with anything as crass as a plot.
  18. So much is unspoken and this slice of reality is so thin and slow as to make the film downright unsatisfying.
  19. The movie never actually gets to winter: The title is just a clumsy play on the family's surname.
  20. 50
    The film, bound to bore the socks off impatient viewers, mistakes reserve for depth and ends up hamstringing its talented cast into playing characters you never care about all that much.
  21. Oddly, the film's strengths -- its quiet, understated manner; its non-plot; the awkward speech patterns and uncomfortable pauses that suggest emotional isolation -- are also its weaknesses.
  22. 50
    Ultimately undercut by its fictional elements and its flat characters.
  23. Despite stellar work from the cast, the movie seems as emotionally distant from its audience as its characters are from each other.
  24. 40
    Too sensitive for this world or any other, this stifling portrait of a family stuck in bereavement offers the painful sight of at least two highly accomplished actors frozen for lack of direction from novice writer-director Josh Sternfeld.
  25. 40
    Sternfeld's script, developed at the Sundance screenwriters' lab, is spare to the point of stinginess; individual scenes play beautifully without adding up to anything, stranding the actors in an emotional vacuum that drains the life from their performances.
  26. Neither a change of seasons nor truly wonderful performances can breathe life into the dismally enervated Winter Solstice.
  27. It's dreadful, but it's a special kind of dreadful -- the kind designed to appeal to intelligent people on principle.
  28. 10
    The result is a numbing void, and a long, frustrating wait for something to happen.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 6 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 2 out of 4
  2. Negative: 0 out of 4
  1. .perez
    Sep 14, 2006
    Quiet, self-assured, this film is one to sit down by yourself with and fall in to. Beautiful camera work and acting. The story is simple and Quiet, self-assured, this film is one to sit down by yourself with and fall in to. Beautiful camera work and acting. The story is simple and thoughtful. Full Review »