James Pittman (James Whittingham) is taking some time off from teaching fine arts at the University. He’s being pressured by the school to replicate his previous photographic success in his new book; at home he’s ignored by his cold, dismissive, prominent researcher wife; and finally in a bizarre incident, he gets his drivers license revoked while seeing a doctor for an unrelated condition. All these cumulative events leads James down the path to a young woman who’s going to turn his life upside down in a sure-fire recipe for triggering a mid-life crisis.
The Sabbatical is a story of an unlikely friendship. It closely examines the experience of being out of your comfort zone, yet still wanting to confront everything head on. James and Lucy (Laura Abramsen), while seemingly from different worlds, are actually quite evenly matched both in their characters and their performances. With some of the film’s dialogue composed after casting was completed on the film, director Brian Stockton was able to have his cast develop a natural rapport with each other and it works.
The story, while it does have direction and purpose, stagnates at times. Likely meant to show James’ meandering and uncertainty, we are left in limbo a bit too long as we witness a seemingly long string of events in which little happens. Luckily, pacing improves in the latter part of the film and the rapport between James and Lucy is interesting. Their attempts to balance their new friendship with their existing lives captivates audience attention with their moments of seeming absurdity that upon reflection, are actually all too real.