A photography professor on his year off strikes up an unlikely friendship with a much younger art student in The Sabbatical. James Pittman (James Whittingham) is a professor at the University of Regina, who is using his one year sabbatical to attempt to put together a new photography book, even though he has trouble finding inspiration. With his wife Jillian (Burnadette Mullen) busy with a research project, James strikes up a friendship with young art student Lucy (Laura Abramsen), who may provide the inspiration he needs.
The Sabbatical is a film that is rightfully described as being a “mid-life comedy.” James Pittman's one year sabbatical is anything other than rest and relaxation, since he practically blackmailed by his dean to public a new photography book, if he expects to keep his job at the university. On top of that, his wife Jillian is barely acknowledging his existence, as she focuses on her own career. This results in James entering into somewhat of a midlife crisis, which is highlighted by his unlikely friendship with the much younger Lucy.
The Sabbatical is a comedy that plays things relatively safe. The film has a very sitcom-like brand of humour, which is perfectly watchable, yet not entirely all that compelling. That's not to say there is anything all that wrong with The Sabbatical, it's just that comes off as somewhat bland. While James is indeed going through a midlife crisis, the film seems to be taking place in a world, where everyone seems to have an “aw shucks” responses to James' predicament. Particularly unrealistic is James' wife Jillian, who doesn't seem concerned at all that her husband is hanging out with a twenty-something redhead. Altogether, The Sabbatical is a film for people who like bland, middle of the road comedies.