The Winter Solstice is a made for TV afternoon showing two part film with an outstanding cast which made this conventional airport holidaying bookshop romantic drama engaging viewing.
Sinead Cusack finds herself in poverty and homeless when her husband dies having gambled everything in an attempt to save their home and provide for his widow. She rents a cottage with her dog in a village close by to Oscar Blundell (Jan Niklas, an internationally recognised organist who lives with his wife (Geraldine Chaplin) and their daughter. When his wife and daughter are killed in a car accident Oscar is devastated and refuses to play again or to be comforted although he appreciates the friendship of Elfrida(Cusack) as they knew each other as students. Before her marriage Elfrida had become a good standard stage actress and in poverty she visits London to find out if her former agent can get her work.
She stays with a friend who has commenced an affair with yet another male in the hope of finding financial security who has two daughters one estranged and living on the continent (Austria) I think, and the other a rebellious teenager who tries to keep life as separate from her mother as she can.
The films begins in Vienna, or wherever, as the eldest daughter finds that the lover is married(and needs to stay married because of his wife’s wealth) and she jets back home to London in a passenger seat next to Jason Durr as Sam Howard a global accountant deciding to shut down an oil platform in an attractive Scottish loch for financial reasons. The two encounter each other again in London briefly. What then happens brings all these characters to the loch village over Christmas and New Year.
The wheeling dealing accountant is offered a stay at the part owned Scottish home of Hugie McClellan(Peter Ustinov|) who is a relative and says the accommodation usually let out is available and will serve a good base for his visit over the holiday period. Unbeknown to him the other part owner is Oscar Blundell who also finds himself homeless when his son in law who never accepted the marriage announces that he is now the owner of the property under the Will settlement and insists that his father in leaves the home he has shared with his mother and their offspring.
Elfrida is successful in her efforts as her agent (Maureen Lipman) arranges an interview for a new on tour show directed by Brian Blessed as Max. Before starting the tour she agrees to spend the holiday with Oscar at the Scottish retreat. It is agreed that they will be accompanied by the two daughters of the friend who is off to the USA with her latest hoping for marriage. The eldest wants to get out of town quickly after she tracked by the boyfriend and her younger sister agrees to go with her,
Oscar notifies the local contact of their arrival who is the leading Mrs Busybody who they have to keep at arms length. They are also approached by the local vicar who has been alerted by the vicar from their village and he tries to persuade Oscar to play the church organ as well offering his support. The one other aspect of the situation which upsets Oscar is the involvement of the teenage sister who reminds of his daughter and he goes for her for being a teenager using her lap top, communicating with friends and listening to contemporary music. Out walking the dog which becomes entangled in barb wire the creature is rescued by the son of the vicar who works on the local gold course and a friendship between the young people is established,
The arrival of the accountant in the middle of the night also upsets the situation especially when he finds one of the parties the girl encountered on the plane. The local aristo, the Countess Lucinda Rhives( Jean Simmons) is alerted to impending closure of the only work enterprise in the locality after her best workers left the distillery of single malt whisky which use to provide the employment. She arrives at the estate house in high dungeon mistaking Blundell for the accountant and Elfrida for his woman. Understandably the accountant finds a hostile reception when he visits the local Inn and his purpose becomes known.
However he is not the as hard nosed as his actions have so indicated and his myopic attention appears to have been a major cause in the break up of his marriage. He strikes up a good relationship with Oscar and begins to appreciate the impact of his decision on the community. A solution emerges when Jean Simmons shows him the distillery and asks him to assess its prospects by looking at the books as she had had no aptitude for running the business and the required marketing since the death of her husband and the impact of everyone going off to work for the oil company. He also begins to establish a relationship with the eldest daughter which comes to a head when the boyfriend tracks her down alerted by the well intentioned young sister.
The situation is resolved after a local pre Christmas party. The outcome is predictable. Sam completes the closure oil drilling but accepts the offer to become manager of the distillery which he assess has a future with the right branding and marketing as the product is of high quality. Oscar through a developing relationship with Elfrida comes to terms with the loss of his daughter and agrees to play the church organ at the Christmas service. Although she will need time the relationship between the eldest daughter and Sam will progress and her sister has also established a good relationship with the son of the vicar.
As I mentioned at the outset the film was shown in two parts on successive afternoons and because of other priorities I missed the second part and was horrified to find that although the first part was available on the Channel Five player, the second was not. I checked and double checked over the next three days and joined in recording the protest of others on the comments Internet site for the programme and followed this up with an email. I then received an apology explaining that the second part had been delayed for technical reasons and was now available for viewing.
While as I have said this is a conventional romantic drama with happy endings, the script quality acting and beautiful setting suggests that the film would be worth a prime time showing on terrestrial TV.