Reservation Road opens with the scene of a children’s music recital. The camera focuses on one performer in particular, Josh Learner (Sean Curley). We are treated to a shot of the boy’s parents in the audience gazing adoringly towards their sons with much pride revealed in their expressions. Ethan (Joaquin Phoenix) and Grace Learner (Jennifer Connelly) along with their daughter Emma (Elle Fanning [sister of Dakota]) congratulate Josh after his performance and soon make their way towards home. They stop for some windshield washer flui d at an out of the way gas station on Reservation Road. Earlier that day, Dwight Arno (Mark Ruffalo) and his son Lucas (Eddie Alderson) are attending a Red Sox game. The game runs late and it is well past the time that Dwight was supposed to have his son returned to the boys mother. Racing back to return his son to his ex wife, Dwight hurriedly makes tracks across Reservation Road. The SUV rounds a bend and comes upon the gas station where the Learner family happens to be. Dwight Arno loses control of his vehicle and ends up striking and killing ten year old musician James Learner. Much to the shock of James father Ethan, Dwight slows down for a second, but ultimately drives off. Without a good look at the SUV or its driver, Ethan and the police have little to go on in the search for his son’s killer.
Amazingly strong performances abound in this thrilling piece directed by Terry George, who also helmed Hotel Rwanda. Mark Ruffalo’s brilliance is personified in his portrayal of a man drowning in a bitter agonizing struggle between personal responsibility and a responsibility to the welfare of his family. Joaquin Phoenix shines brightly as well as the grieving father whose son’s life is snuffed out way to soon. This story is very engaging and the amount of twists and unexpected turns had me, at times, wondering aloud what else could possibly convolute (and I mean that in the most positive sense of the word) this plot more?
I first read about this film and my original thought was simply blah. The plot "sounded" like a generic Hollywood story that may as well have been spit out from some script producing computer program. I was pleasantly surprised almost as soon as I dove into this thing. As I said before, the performances speak for themselves, but there is quite a bit more depth than that. The plot itself is interestingly engaging and really does keep the viewers guessing pretty much throughout. I took some issue with the ending, as it seemed a bit lackluster to me, but a weak ending does not always ruin an entire film.
Watch and enjoy. Fans of Joaquin and Mark will be overjoyed. I would suggest it to anyone. The run time is minimal comparatively, so you won’t need 6 hours of time to devour this piece of cinema.
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