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  Publicity Stills of "Reservation Road"
(Courtesy from Shaw)

Genre: Drama
Director: Terry George
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Connelly, Mira Sorvino, Elle Fanning
RunTime: 1 hr 42 mins
Released By: Shaw
Rating: PG

Opening Day: 3 January 2008


Based on the critically acclaimed novel of the same name by John Burnham Schwartz, this is the compelling new dramatic thriller from two-time Academy Award-nominated writer/director Terry George ("Hotel Rwanda"). A tale of anger, revenge, and great courage, the film follows two fathers as their families and lives converge. On a warm September evening, college professor Ethan Learner (two-time Academy Award nominee Joaquin Phoenix), his wife Grace (Academy Award winner Jennifer Connelly), and their daughter Emma (Elle Fanning) are attending a recital. Their 10-year-old son Josh (Sean Curley) is playing cello – beautifully, as usual. His younger sister looks up to him, and his parents are proud of their son. On the way home, they all stop at a gas station on Reservation Road. There, in one terrible instant, he is taken from them forever. On a warm September evening, law associate Dwight Arno (Mark Ruffalo) and his 11-year-old son Lucas (Eddie Alderson) are attending a baseball game. Their favorite team, the Red Sox, is playing – and, hopefully, heading for the World Series. Dwight cherishes his time spent with Lucas. Driving his son back to his ex-wife, Lucas' mother Ruth Wheldon (Academy Award winner Mira Sorvino), Dwight heads towards his fateful encounter at Reservation Road. The accident happens so fast that Lucas is all but unaware, while Ethan – the only witness – is all too aware, as a panicked Dwight speeds away. The police are called, and an investigation begins. Haunted by the tragedy, both fathers react in unexpected ways, as do Grace and Emma. As a reckoning looms, the two fathers are forced to make the hardest choices of their lives.

Movie Review:

As if leading our urbanized lives isn’t difficult enough, we have to sit through films like this which make us feel bad about our inner selves and reflect on our responsibilities, guilty pasts and pains? Based on John Burnham Schwartz’s novel of the same name, this tragic drama involving just one single death of a child asks you to ponder deep into such complex issues.

Together with their two adorable children, Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line) and Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind) play a loving husband-and-wife team whose lives seem perfect. Things take an unexpected turn when Mark Ruffalo’s (Zodiac) broken-hearted lawyer whose wife has left him comes along and knocks down their son. The hit-and-run accident changes everyone’s lives forever in the most agonizing ways.

On one end, we have the motherly Connelly feeling terrible because it seems like she is the one responsible for her son’s death. The anguish and guilt is evident in the Oscar winner’s effortless portrayal of an agonized mother. The men don’t have it easy either. Phoenix’s constant angst that the law isn’t doing justice to his son’s death makes him heated and threatens to affect his relationship with his wife. The Oscar nominee’s painstaking performance will make you feel his grief and heartache. Then there is Ruffalo’s guilt-ridden character that lives in constant fear and sorrow, seeing how he has ruined a happy family. Things get worse when Phoenix approaches him to help solve the crime. The underrated actor plays his role with such conviction; it’ll be hard for you not to feel for his tormented and tortured soul.

Other than the brief opening scene where we see the happy family at the beautiful Cove Island Park in Stamford, Connecticut, the rest of this 102-minute film paints a grim and dismal picture.

Terry George (Hotel Rwanda) directs his actors superbly in this tale of regrets and redemption. Even supporting roles played by Oscar winner Mira Sorvino and younger sister of Dakota, Elle Fanning are comfortably weaved into the stellar performances of the three main leads. The filmmaker also co-wrote the screenplay with novelist Schwartz, giving it a somewhat overly sentimental and predictable turn. Expect several scenes of characters breaking down emotionally (read: Oscar bait), blowing the top with each other (read: more Oscar bait) and plot twists and coincidences you saw coming round the corner.

But you’ll overlook those aspects, because you’d already be feeling down and out by the end of the film (watch out for the abrupt but effective conclusion), thanks to the cast’s excellent performances.

Movie Rating:

(Watch this film for the first-rate acting by every member of the fine cast)

Review by John Li


. Zodiac (2007)

. Walk The Line (2005)

. Hotel Rwanda (2004)

. We Don't Live Here Anymore (2003)

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