Winter Solstice

Institute History

  • 2001 January Screenwriters Lab


Set in an anonymous suburb in America, Winter Solstice tells the story of a middle-aged widower who must say goodbye to his son and start to create a life for himself. In the spring of 1994 as summer approaches, Jim Winters prepares for his busy time of year. As the owner of a small pool-cleaning business and the single father of two sons, Jim maintains both the neighborhood pools as well as his own household. His younger son Peter seems committed to dropping out of high school—but that's nothing new. Just an increase in determination. The surprise of this summer comes from Gabe, his older son, who reveals that he's leaving home to start his life elsewhere.

As Jim knows, saying goodbye to Gabe means confronting the holes in his own life. It means a quieter house, less grocery shopping, and the acknowledgment that one day Pete will also leave. As summer approaches, Jim realizes that his life is changing; the father is becoming a single man in his forties, and he is terribly unprepared. He doesn't realize just how unprepared until he starts a friendship with Molly, a new arrival to the neighborhood.

Gabe's announcement also sets off an alarm in Peter. As the only witness to his mother's death, he's still living with ghosts, and his recklessness and self-sabotage are increasing as he gets older. Nothing Jim tries seems to work, and both father and son resign themselves to a stalemate, a mutual stare-down. Slowly but surely, Pete builds a wall around himself. But as the annual session of summer school opens, he meets someone who finally starts to chip away at his veneer.

This is the story of Gabe Winters' last month at home. Through the summer of '94, Jim and Pete watch as Gabe packs up his room and prepares to move out. All three men realize that a chapter in their lives has concluded; all three must face the future with their own eyes.


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