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10/10
A provocative Road to take
bemorecynical20019 April 2008
A full six months after Reservation Road was supposed to release in theaters (it did, only in a very quiet handful), the film is finally, and again, very quietly put out on DVD. I had been looking forward to this film for some time and had been shocked by it's ill-treatment from Focus Features. After receiving it from Netflix and viewing it, I went out the very next day to purchase it. Where I was expecting a slow, wrenching exploration of grief and loss, this film actually surprised me with an untold amount of suspense and thrills. It certainly is not a "thriller" perhaps, but where the story goes and how these characters react leaves you on edge in several instances where you're not only unsure of what they will do next, but you're not sure what you would do next.

I had read a lot about this movie before seeing it, so there were some reveals that I already knew about from my own curiosity as well as some misguided choices in what is shown in the trailer. I would have liked to see it fresh, so I will give plot points sparingly. Ethan and Grace Lerner (Joaquin Phoenix and Jennifer Connelly, respectively) are a well-to-do couple living in an affluent Connecticut town who lose a child in a hit and run accident. Dwight Arno (Mark Ruffalo) is speeding home to deliver his young son to his ex-wife (Mira Sorvino) and leaves the scene. The unfolding story effectively explores how the Lerner family struggles to cope with an unimaginable loss to an unknown perpetrator, and how Dwight wrestles with his fragile conscience while trying to hide his crime from the authorities. I think it works better to not know how Ethan and Dwight meet and proceed to dance around this event, but when they do, is when the real enjoyment of this film begins.

Sorvino does a fine job, and Connelly, in a larger and more difficult role, does a very good job, but this film belongs to the male leads. Ruffalo is great playing a seemingly decent man who commits a heinous crime he desperately tries to hide. This is Ruffalo's best work to date and if this film had been appropriately marketed and acknowledged, it would have been a breakout for him.

As our main lead, Phoenix is just wonderful. Ethan is a devoted husband and father whose world suddenly ceases to make sense following this tragedy and seeing him pull away from his family as he gets lost in his depths of grief and fanatical in his quest to find the killer gives Phoenix room to further display his remarkable range. An actor who is blessed with naturalness and unbridled by affectations and shortcut tendencies, his portrayal of a man eaten away by unspeakable sorrow and incalculable rage is harrowing. There is a confrontation scene late in the film when Ethan is so incensed he's physically shaking, his words come out as a jumbled growl, and it's startling to witness. Seeing Phoenix actually show that level of anger makes you wonder how or what he did to get to this place. That I can't know, but I do know that it's terrifying to see this man come undone from the inside out.

Reservation Road is sad, but it doesn't wallow in a way that feels exploitive or cheap. It's a dual journey into one man's struggle to deal with a tragedy that feels beyond him, and the cowardice and humanity of a hunted man dogged by his own shaken ethics. This is a provocative, moving story that really deserves to be seen.
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7/10
Two fathers
jotix1005 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
"Reservation Road" is a difficult movie to sit through. The tragic death of a boy is something no one expects. It's a parents' nightmare to go through the loss of a child. If that death is caused by a hit and run driver, is even worse. Unfortunately, in most cases, guilt and shame play highly on the mind of the perpetrator. While the decent thing to do is to stop and go back to the scene of the crime, most people will run out of fear of facing their own responsibility.

Ethan Learner and Dwight Arno are two men that love their children. In the case of Dwight, a divorce has limited the way he can share time with his son Lucas. Ethan suffers a tremendous blow when Josh, who has strayed from the parking area to liberate fireflies, is killed by what appears, by all indications, of the carelessness of a drunk driver, or some other person who decides to flee the scene of the crime. Both men go through hell in different ways. Dwight, suffers the guilt of his cowardly act, and Ethan, because after losing Josh, he can't stop planning to get his own justice when everything else fails him.

This film was an adaptation of the novel by John Burnham Schwartz, we haven't read. It was adapted for the screen by the author and the director, Terry George, whose "Hotel Rwanda" made an impression on this viewer's mind. Mr. George makes a character study of the two fathers at a time of crisis.

The ensemble cast does a good job. Mark Ruffalo comes out best as Dwight. Mr. Ruffalo clearly shows why he is one of the most versatile actors of his generation. Joaquin Phoenix, who plays Ethan, does justice to Josh's loving father. In a way, it's a shame Mr. Phoenix has decided to abandon his film career in order to pursue his music. Jennifer Connelly is Grace, the grieving mother of Josh, who sees in horror how she is losing her husband who is hellbent in avenging Josh's death. Mira Sorvino appears as Dwight's former wife, Ruth.

Despite the uneasiness we felt watching this film, it is worth a look to see how an act of carelessness affects the lives of two men.
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8/10
A Nutshell Review: Reservation Road
DICK STEEL4 January 2008
You wonder what goes through the minds of those involved in hit and run accidents. In that split second after impact, you are presented a choice, and your life will change, one way or the other. One probably has to consider whether to stop and render assistance, and in doing so owning up to the accident, but having a chance to save a life if the circumstances allow for it. Or to hope that nobody saw you did what you did, and bolt. Negligent drivers, either through drink driving, or being distracted while on the road, probably won't elicit much sympathy, especially so from the family of the victim, and in Reservation Road, powerful drama is weaved amongst the characters on both sides of the hit and run equation.

Reservation Road refers to the scene of the crime, where the Learners - dad Ethan (Joaquin Phoenix), mom Grace (Jennifer Connelly) and daughter Emma (Elle Fanning) lose their son/brother in an accident, caused by a man in a baseball cap, driving an SUV. On this angle, we follow through the pain of the family who suffer a terrible loss. The dad Ethan slowly degenerates into an obsessive wreck, trying in vain to pursue the perpetrator who's out there, through his own dogged investigations when he realizes that the cops can only do what they can given extremely limited leads which yielded no progress. The mom Grace, while at first finding it hard to accept the truth - and in the initial days, the simplest of reasons to pin the guilt in, will resonate deeply - but we see how she draws strength in the hope of keeping the family spirits up. And the daughter finds ways to cope with the loss through channeling her energies into performance.

On the other angle, Mark Ruffalo plays Dwight the lawyer, who's estranged from his wife Ruth (Mira Sorvino) and has visiting rights to their son. When the accident happens, in that split second he made the inevitable decision for self preservation, and while he may have momentarily escape from justice and the law, negative karma dictates that he will live his life being tormented by guilt from that point on, all this while trying to provide reason that he based his decision on being able to be free from jail, to continue seeing his son. Confession and owning up will see himself in the slammer, and probably losing everything. I thought this part of the story was the more interesting one. On one hand we judge that he's a coward, of not being a man in owning up to the wrong that he did. On the other, we also realize his pain and his fear - it takes a lot to own up, especially when it involves lives being taken away, and from people we remotely know, no thanks to six degrees of separation.

Based on the novel by John Burnham Schwartz who also co-wrote the screenplay with director Terry George (Hotel Rwanda), some might wonder if the coming together of the key characters are a tad convenient. We have father to father in a lawyer-client position, and one mother being the teacher of the other's child. Putting them together will lead to the inevitable, but it is this unravelling of the truth, that keeps us engaged to a gripping ending. Scenes that will make you seethe with rage, and probably whisper a silent curse, will be those where opportunities for confession are presented, but each time spurned. As the saying goes, a lie begets a larger lie, and it will snowball before you realize that the lie becomes to difficult to cover up.

Kudos go all round to the entire cast, save for Sorvino's role which is more cameo than supporting, mainly also because the tanglement of the complicated situation doesn't affect her character directly. Ruffalo put on a commendable performance as the man wrecked by guilt, and he fleshed his character with incredible nuances we usually associate when we are fearful, and guilty. You can feel pain through Joaquin's performance of the dad looking for justice, but finds himself being unsatisfied by the system of the law, and learns that sometimes the law and justice conflict each other, and offer the layman little or no protection, unlike those such as diplomats who have powers at their disposal. Jennifer Connelly of late plays nothing but pained wives/mothers/girlfriends (A Beautiful Mind, Hulk, Dark Water, Little Children), so there's nothing really new in her role her. But I would like to single out little Elle Fanning. While her role here is fairly simple, I thought she had exhibited much more screen presence and likability than her more illustrious sister Dakota, who has disappeared after her last outing in Charlotte's Web. Hopefully we get to see more of Elle taking on challenging kid/teen roles in time to come.

Reservation Road is recommended for being a powerful drama with excellent an excellent cast. Usually movies like these will have the mothers bawling and the picture being a weepy drama, but here, the movie shifts its focus to the love of fathers toward their sons, and that makes it well worth a watch.
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Superbly crafted drama, but very sad
Sue Basko19 October 2007
Astounding. Impeccably crafted drama. The story is sad and very serious, but this is one of the most perfect examples of the art of simple dramatic film-making that exists. This is film storytelling at its pinnacle. On a scale of four stars, this is a five star movie. It is mature, thoughtful and thought-provoking.

This is a story of regular people (regular, middle class white people, that is) who experience a personal tragedy. How do they each handle the tragedy? What do they become in its wake?

This is the role of a lifetime for Mark Ruffalo, and he shows us what dramatic acting is at its finest. The rest of the cast is superb, too- from the other leads to the bit players. Even the kid actors are incredibly good here. Joaquin Phoenix also gives a performance of a lifetime, Jennifer Connelly is superb, Elle Fanning is haunting. Every actor, down to the minor parts, does a fantastic job – which lets you know the director made this possible. So GREAT directing!

This movie also has a perfect script. It is a classic literary work, with all the right elements of cohesive story with bigger thoughts and themes, multidimensional characters with moral shading and growth, emotional fullness. The story and characters are deep, rich, fully realized. This must have been written by an English major or serious playwright, since it has all the elements of good dramatic writing.

The direction is also perfect and unobtrusive. This movie is directed so flawlessly that the viewer never notices a shot; it is so perfect that there is only this on-screen reality, no presence whatever of a camera or even of a movie. This directing was there to give the actors what they needed to fully realize their characters.

The editing is utterly astoundingly perfect. Again, this matches the simplicity and unobtrusiveness of the directing. The cinematography is simple and perfect, appears to be shot on high quality video. The music is also perfectly placed and matched to this film. This movie is so good that I imagine they had incredible gaffers and drivers and caterers.

We, the viewers, were thoroughly engrossed in the places and the people. The audience in the movie theater was silent, absolutely silent, from the start to finish of this movie. This is a story we will think about for days and weeks to come.

The only slight bad thing about this movie is the title. I had no idea what it was supposed to be about when I was going to see it. From the word "reservation," I thought maybe it was about an Indian reservation. The promo photos make it look like some sort of adventure flick. I think the name and the ads might keep people from seeing it, and for sure will confuse them about what it is.

I guess theis movie will be depending on word of mouth, so I am happy to say here – Go see it.
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7/10
Well crafted character study of tragedy
sjb_can14 April 2008
I knew nothing about the plot when I rented this film. With Joaquin Phoenix, Jennifer Connelly and Mark Ruffalo starring in it, I figured it would be, at the very least, good, and it was. From the beginning scenes, a palpable tension is created; you just know something awful is about to happen despite two normal family outings being the subject matter. From then on, the plot reels out in an arc rife with too many coincidences, but the direction was able to pull it off without making me want to groan. There are some emotional scenes that would have played a little better had they been more subtle. The police officer and Mark Ruffalo were flawless. The children were outstanding. I'm not sure if it was Joaquin's character, the script, the direction or what, but he did not keep me riveted as he usually does; a bit over-acted perhaps. Jennifer delivered a couple of lines that didn't ring true--could have been an editing problem. The obsession of anger/justice seems a bit premature. It would have been better to see a progression. Despite my criticisms, I found enough mastery and depth of character to recommend it and give it a 7. I found myself worrying that the ending would ruin the film but it was faultless and convincing.
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8/10
With guilt, there's nowhere to hide
Craig McPherson22 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The human conscience is a powerful thing. Couple it with a life altering mistake compounded by a momentary lapse in moral judgment and a person can find themselves gripped by a lifetime of guilt. Such is the case in the melancholy Reservation Road, which tells the story of two men whose lives are shattered in the blink of an eye, and the guilt and fear that grow from the festering wound it leaves.

Joaquin Phoenix stars as Ethan Learner, a college professor who, while driving home with his wife Grace (Jennifer Connelly) and two young children Emma and Josh (Elle Fanning and Sean Curley), decide to make a stop at a gas station on Reservation Road. It's there that in one quick moment of tragedy Josh is accidentally hit and killed by an SUV driven by lawyer Dwight Arno (Mark Ruffalo), frantically rushing his son home to his ex-wife after a Red Sox game.

Compounding the tragedy is Dwight's decision, rendered in a split second, to speed away from the scene, leaving Ethan with only a blurred fleeting glimpse and little else to aid the police with their investigation.

In the days that follow, the inner torture that both sides face threatens to destroy the very fabric of their souls.

Directed by Terry George (Hotel Rwanda) and based on the critically acclaimed novel by John Burnham Schwartz (who co-wrote the screenplay with George), the story adds a darker layer to the human tragedy when Ethan unwittingly opts to hire Dwight as his lawyer to help ensure the killer is prosecuted to the full extent of the law, should he be captured.

Both Phoenix and Ruffalo turn in impressive performances as two men whose insides have been rendered asunder by the accident. Rufallo is particularly convincing in that even though his character has full access to the police investigation and knows that he will likely never be caught, he cannot escape the torment that what he did was wrong and must somehow be put right.

There's no easy answers to be found along Reservation Road, only choices; the choice to forgive or to hate, to admit one's guilt or bury it, to live a life of eternal torment, or move on however difficult that may be. Life's all about choices, and Reservation Road is a choice not to be passed up.
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8/10
Very Good
aourchan29 July 2008
I didn't know much about RR when I grabbed it off the shelf at my local video store, but I was enticed by the cast so I decided to take it for a spin. It really ended up surprising me because I hadn't heard anything about it and wasn't really expecting too much out of it. In the end though, I ended up liking the movie a lot. There were parts where I was very very moved and it was just too hard to not be on the side of Joaquin, and then moments later you flash to Mark Ruffalo and I understood in a way what he was going through. Throughout the movie my feelings for Ruffalo changed greatly. At first, of course, it was immediate hatred for him, but as I got to know him I started to feel for him before again being completely sickened by him in the end. Most movies can't take you on a ride the way that I was taken for this one, I was really moved at parts and completely sickened at others. These days you don't get many movies that take you on this kind of a journey, and I salute any film that doesn't just stick with a simple cookie cutter plot that I can predict before it starts. Sometimes we need something like this to remind us what good movies really are. For me the acting was superb and the plot kept you thinking. This is definitely one that I think you should go out and watch.
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8/10
Reservation Road
Raj Doctor7 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I had my doubts about this movie when I saw the trailers, but with the run of the mill movies releasing now a days, I thought this might be comparatively good. And I was not wrong.

After viewing a baseball match with his son, lawyer Dwight Arno (Mark Ruffalo), by mistake, drives over and kills the child of Ethan Learner (Joaquin Phoenix) and Grace Learner (Jennifer Connelly). Dwight is scared and drives away, and hides this fact from everyone. The police are in search of this hit and run offender, who no one except Ethan has seen (only as a glimpse in the night – Dwight with a baseball cap). Ethan approaches a lawyer's firm and hires Dwight to fight the hit and run case. As the time passes, there is no evidence that the hit and run offender would ever be arrested, that makes Ethan desperate. As events unfold, when one day Ethan sees Dwight in the night (in a baseball cap) he remembers the uncanny resemblance of Dwight to the hit and run offender. In the end, Ethan plans to take the law in his own hand and kill Dwight – what happens next? I won't tell here…

The movie's plot is simple and an event that could happen to anyone. But the psychological trauma everyone undergoes through is portrayed brilliantly here. Not only of the family and parents of the lost child, but of the hit and run offender. Our heart goes out for Dwight's plight, who wants to confess his crime, but is so scared. Mark Ruffalo scores full marks for portraying the hidden emotions of trauma on his face and body language.

An excellent performance indeed. (I need to see this fellow's a few more movies to know whether this performance is a fluke?) Nothing to take away from Joaquin Phoenix, who is so sincere in his acting that one can not take away the despair from him. He is perfect. Jennifer Connelly, at times over-reacting (as the character demanded) is also good in her role.

The direction is fantastic, and keeps the audiences glued to the sit throughout. The events unfold keeping you guessing continuously, every turn of events brings Ethan closer to his suspect Dwight and that is great to watch. I would recommend the scene when Joaquin calls Mark at the scene of the crime, knowing Mark could be the suspect. The scene is terrific, especially the ending of the scene when the camera walks along with Joaquin's face, and Mark standing still behind. Fantastic! A very well directed movie by award winning Hotel Rwanda director Terry George, who has co-written the screenplay of this movie with John Burnham Schwartz who has written the novel by the same name.

A highly recommended movie.

(Stars 7.75 out of 10)
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be prepared to be touched and saddened
Gordon-1130 March 2008
This film is about a grieving family dealing with the loss of their son after a hit and run accident.

The plot is very strong, It shows the driver's guilt and shame, the unrelenting pursuit of the father trying to find the driver, and a grieving mother who wants to move on. The powerful performances are remarkably touching, especially of Joaquin Phoenix and Jennifer Connelly. The added twist in the complicated relationship between Dwight and Ethan is engagingly presented, and adds more melancholy and tension to the whole film.

"Reservation Road" is a surprising gem. It is almost scary that a split second decision can have such profound impact on oneself and others. be prepared to be touched and saddened by "Reservation Road".
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6/10
Reservation Road Movie Review
GoneWithTheTwins28 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Human suffering is an interesting subject because of its relative ease in connecting with audiences and evoking emotions. Reservation Road succeeds in emphasizing the catastrophic events of a hit and run accident with astoundingly powerful performances from everyone in the cast. Where it fails is in its documentary approach at portraying the mental aftermath of a tragedy and the dearth of a plausibly satisfactory conclusion. As Reservation Road reluctantly concedes early on, when none of the characters win, neither does the audience.

Ethan Learner (Joaquin Phoenix), his wife Grace (Jennifer Connelly) and their two young children Emma and Josh stop at a gas station on Reservation Road and have their lives unsuspectingly swept out from under them when Josh is killed by a hit-and-run driver. The driver, Dwight Arno (played by Mark Ruffalo), in shock and afraid of losing his own son, who he struggles to see despite strict court orders from a divorce, attempts to hide his damaged SUV and any signs of the crime. But with unnervingly unforeseen coincidences, Dwight is hired as a lawyer to investigate the crime, while his wife tutors little Emma. Wrought with guilt and the fear of judgment by his impressionable young son, Dwight weighs his options as his world crumbles around him. Meanwhile, Ethan, overcome with grief, seeks vigilante justice due to the ineffectiveness of local law enforcement.

First and foremost, the acting is peerlessly superior to just about everything else so far this year. Undeniably Academy Award worthy performances pours forth from Jennifer Connelly, Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Ruffalo. Each of these characters suffer in different ways, but their portrayals are so accurately riveting that every time they burst into tears, so do we. Few performances are able to elicit such striking emotion from its audience, but Reservation Road's cast does so with ease. Of course, its tragedy-rich plot line is an easy target for sympathy.

Early on it is undeniably apparent that Dwight's flight from the hit-and-run accident was caused by a combination of fear and ignorance. But his continual suffering from his conscience eating away at him allows the audience to take pity, and we don't necessarily want him to die - especially because of his child. This leads to a problem for the audience: the antagonist is made to suffer, allowing for little satisfaction when his sins catch up to him. When every character loses, the audience often also loses out on a satisfactory resolution, in this case leading to a very abrupt finale. Reservation Road makes the mistake of creating very emotionally powerful pieces that overshadow the truncated conclusion and the film as a whole.

While the end itself pales in comparison to the panic-inducing build, credit is due to the nail-bitingly suspenseful and complexly brilliant first two acts. Dwight is unable to completely hide from Ethan's vengeful suspicions due to increasingly unexpected twists. Connelly's tear-jerking anxiety and Emma's innocently naïve queries to her mother add a dash of lemon juice to the wound of death-related heartbreak.

Reservation Road wastes no time careening right into the nerve-racking plot, and with powerhouse performances that won't be forgotten during awards season, it tells a woeful tale with countless layers of grief, anxiety and regret. While it may fail to thoroughly entertain with its "lose-lose" approach, it is a film that is not easily forgotten.

  • Mike Massie
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7/10
A vehicle full of great acting
sudburHUY22 September 2007
The issues dealt with in this movie are real, and I can see many people who will be able to draw from their own experiences when watching this film. You may wonder sometimes if an accident happens, how long can you hold a person accountable for? Jennifer Connelly is again a mesmerizing presence on the silver screen. I watched tonight's screening of Reservation Road in Sudbury at our Cinefest festival expecting it to tug an emotional chord. I have to say, it was touching to see all the parents in the audience shedding a tear when the credits rolled. Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Ruffalo made a somewhat formulaic script feel fresh and real.
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6/10
This movie makes you confront your inner self and guides you to do the right thing
Warning: Spoilers
(My Synopsis) Ethan Learner (Joaquin Phoenix), his wife Grace (Jennifer Connelly), their 10-year old son Josh (Sean Curley), and younger daughter Emma (Elle Fanning) are going home after Josh's musical recital. On their way home, Ethan stops at a gas station on Reservation Road. What was a simple act of stopping at the gas station turns into a life changing event. In a split second Josh is hit by an SUV and killed. Dwight Arno (Mark Ruffalo) is the driver of the SUV and for a split second he stops, because it was an accident, then he panics and runs. The state police are called, and they begin to investigate the hit and run. As time goes by, both men are living in emotional turmoil and agony over this event.

(My Comment) The movie is an emotional tug-of-war from start to finish. The father and mother are in pain with losing a son from the hit and run car accident. The person who ran the boy over with his SUV is in pain every day with seeing the accident in his head. This is one situation where a person really doesn't know how he would react until it occurs. Through your survival instincts would you run or would you do the right thing, and stop. The story is true to life as to how people react to a tragic event. Emotions are intense where everybody is blaming each other for the accident, just as in real life. Many people can only feel better about themselves if they can deflect blame by claiming an unfortunate or tragic event is someone else's fault. It is human nature, also, to play the "if only" role – if only I hadn't stopped at that gas station. But that is what accidents are all about, and hindsight is 20-20. Ethan must make the choice to hate and get his revenge, or to forgive and move on with life; otherwise, he will lose the rest of his family. Dwight must choose to admit his guilt or bury it inside himself and live in torment. The movie makes you confront your inner self, which guides you to do the right thing in life's hard situations, or to choose to give into fear, pain, or shame, and take the superficial easy way out, and live with the inner self blame and sorrow that follows. If you see this movie, you will be emotionally drained by the time you leave. (Focus Features, Run time 1:42, Rated R)(6/10)
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7/10
not "In the Bedroom" or "Mystic River", but approaching them
Lee Eisenberg29 June 2008
I didn't know what "Reservation Road" was about when I started watching it. Not knowing the plot makes the movie hit you more. After an unfortunate event, the two families involved (neither of whom knows who the other is) inadvertently become more and more intertwined. Each time that another link gets revealed, you know that you're getting closer and closer to something ugly.

The characters, although not the best that I've seen in movies, were certainly worthwhile. Ethan Learner (Joaquin Phoenix) remains totally despondent about his son's death and the fact that the killer hasn't been caught. Ethan's wife Grace (Jennifer Connelly) wants to move on with her life and finds it regrettable that Ethan obsesses on one topic. Dwight Arno (Mark Ruffalo), who caused the accident, spends most of the movie bothered by his actions and wanting to right the wrongs, but worried about what might result. At times, each of the characters come across as somewhat repulsive, but you still understand why they behave as they do.

Some people might liken this movie to "In the Bedroom" and "Mystic River". "Reservation Road" certainly deals with similar themes, although I wouldn't actually put it in the same league as those other two. This movie seems a little bit more sensationalistic, and as though it's trying to do the same as the other two. But overall, I thought that it's a good movie, and I would recommend it. Also starring Mira Sorvino and Elle Fanning.
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10/10
One of the best films of the 21st century
ashrawi15 April 2008
This is not only a riveting film that deals with courage and lack of it. This is a devastatingly eviscerating moral parable about a victim's need for closure and a perpetrator's battle with his guilt. Only a very few movies have dealt with the struggle between a man's tortured conscience and his denial on one side and mourning and letting go on the other. One story line brings Dostoyevski's Crime and Punishment to mind while the other one evokes the story line of Brad Pitt's character in Babel.

Jennifer Connelly's depiction of a mother suffering an unbearable loss is so heartbreaking it cuts right through you with its fidelity to genuine real life pain. Joaquin Phoenix portrays desperation with such force you understand and sympathize with his character and what he's going through. The intensity and emotional impact of this movie is as great as The House of Sand and Fog, The Shawshank Redemption and Five Easy Pieces. The ending holds a thought-provoking revelation for the main character that reads like an epiphany as he understands what his only rescue is from the crushing injustice bearing down on him.

Reservation Road deserves to be considered a classic in retrospect since it has that unique power to hold you in its grip and not letting go until the credits roll. Every nuance in the narration achieves a resonance of truth and the viewers will be thinking for a long time about its implications on their lives. Ultimately it's a story about love and how the loss of what we treasure most changes our lives forever, how our undying love in the time of death makes us suffer and seek revenge and retribution but in the end prevail it all.
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10/10
This Does Not Contain Spoilers
hughman5524 April 2016
I don't have children and am therefore not in a position to ever lose one at a young age. This film, however, has brought me about as close to the living hell of what that awful experience would be like as a person can be without the actual first hand experience of living it. This is an excellent film; written well, filmed well, directed well, and with actors as good as you'll ever see in anything. And it will never get the respect it deserves because it eschews the "Hollywood" proforma cadence of either a tiding happy ending or complete descent into carnal madness. Instead, it goes to where things are real and much more difficult to take in.

The main story revolves around two families connected by the same tragedy. Specifically, two fathers played by Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Ruffalo. They are quite literally unbelievable; two great actors at their greatest. Along with Jennifer Connelly, these three take you to a shattered place that is hard to look at and you never want to go to for yourself. It is a dark place where there are no winners and seemingly no hope. It is a place that you can only hope to survive. And if you are a survivor, you will never be the same or as good as you were before. Your marriage will not be the one you had before. Your relationship with your children will never be the same. All that being said, this is not a hopeless story. It is just a difficult one to watch because anyone can identify with it at a human level.

More than the unfolding of this story there is an unsettling tightening of the narrative as this plot develops. Unexpected cross currents in the lives of its antagonists are revealed bringing this story of grief and loss to a boiling point. The victim's father and the perpetrator, unbelievably, have overlaps in their everyday lives; separate and apart from the one that will link them together forever. Their climactic encounter will leave you shaken.

I knew nothing about this film when I watched it a couple of years ago. Literally, nothing. I watched it for two reasons; Mark Ruffalo and Joaquin Phoenix. I was expecting a lot but I got so much more. I tend to go into a lot of detail when writing about a film as good as this one. The 1000 word limit that IMDb allows would never be enough to cover the multi amazing facets of this work. And doing so would require going more into the plot than I think would be useful for, or do justice to, this sorrowful gem. Watch it for yourself. It needs no explanation from me or anyone else. It speaks quite well for itself.
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6/10
greatly acted, terribly said but unremarkable on the whole
antoniotierno29 May 2008
Begins as a sensitive and involving drama guilt but ends up degenerating into a corny story; the cast is good enough but the story gets more and more clichéd. It starts telling the difficulty in coping with a terribly tragic event and describing the fragility of all the characters, that is really felt. The actors bring an intensity to the characters that is really deep. Phoenix and Ruffalo, as well as Connelly, offer a strong emotional foundation that makes them real and genuinely painful. The thing is that coincidences and links between the events are in the end too many and everything risks of falling to pieces, a real pity because the plot was initially very promising.
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8/10
Responsibility, Guilt, and Pain
aharmas21 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Coming up with new and original ideas is getting harder and harder, and "Reservation Road" works so well because the incidents that are at its core don't strain our belief that they could certainly happen to anyone in the audience. We relate to the story because its emotional core appeals to our basic sensibilities: love and hate; the two forces that keep this world going.

Terry George's movie has some excellent elements, and they are certainly memorable when the performances are this good. Both Mark Ruffalo and Joaquin Phoenix continue growing as performers, and both of them explore the various dimensions of his characters, letting us experience the intensity of the different types of pain their respective characters endure.

Through Ruffalo we witness the torment brought upon by his involvement in a tragic accident that leads to an innocent death. His Dwight unravels slowly before our eyes, and there is compelling evidence in his every gesture, look, reaction that it is certainly one of the worst moments in the life of a man that is eventually going to snap.

Mirroring Dwight's reaction is Phoenix's traumatized father who seeks both revenge and justice and is constantly frustrated by the lack of efficient detective work to find the responsible party. As the film reaches its climax, the level of suffering displayed by Phoenix is eroding his logic and making us gasp as he takes an unbelievable approach to solve the situation.

There are of course, other affected relationships, and the supportive work by Jennifer Connelly helps us witness the domestic disintegration of Phoenix's family. She somehow slowly learns to cope with the loss of their child, and we are witness to her emotional turmoil. Her mind remains lucid and she finds incomprehensible what she notices is happening to her husband. Something is going, and yet she can't understand the intensity of the negative effects on her husband.

The film reminds of "Little Children" where dark forces seemed to be stronger than logic and compassion. In this one, the thirst for justice evolves into a mad search for revenge and ways to exorcise demands that terrorize us. It's a powerful movie that came a bit short of being perfect, but that holds well because of the exquisite work by all of the performers involved.
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7/10
Too neat for me but still entertaining
Greatornot7 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This flick was very Hollywood. Fine acting by all , including Mark Ruffalo, Joaquin Phoenix and Jennifer Connelly. I liked this movie and it meant well , exploring the psychology of the victims , particularly the dead boys dad , and his obsession with finding his sons hit and run suspect.This film, as well , explored the situation from , the suspects point of view. OK fair enough I get it and again I felt it was well done. Now here comes the BUT. Everything was neatly in a bow. In a metropolis that boasts in excess of over 12 million people or so... talking about Boston and its surrounding suburbs. The suspect just happens to live within a couple blocks, suspects son just happens to go to same school as victim of hit and run. For the cherries on top the victims family uses suspect as atty to find the killer and the victims family sibling takes piano lessons from suspects ex wife. Hope you guys wrote all this down. This is just too unrealistic for my taste. With all that in mind , I still enjoyed the movie.This was sensitive matter done well. It did offer many educational viewpoints of hit and run episodes and the actors were all people that I like and/or tolerate. Enjoy this movie for what it is and take the overly Hollywood script for what it is and nothing more.
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5/10
Unremarkable
dbborroughs24 December 2007
Story of what happens in the aftermath of a hit and run as the family of the boy killed looks for closure and the man who hit him tries to see if he can live with himself.

Well acted and good looking, I was disappointed in that its very much by the numbers. To be certain there are a couple of twists in the story but mostly it speeds along to its appointed conclusion at a good pace. Its not bad but not really remarkable.Even the good performances can really make something out of this nothing. I'd wait for cable since odds are its going to end up being forgotten not long after you turn it off.

(five out of ten)
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7/10
Dark and Sad, but Well Acted
ardentayu27 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Were Joaquin, Mark, and Jennifer all amazing in their roles? YES. Was the subject matter unbelievably depressing? YES.

I guess I should have expected that, given the plot circumstances – Mark Ruffalo's character kills Joaquin & Jennifer's son in a hit & run. It's obviously going to be a bit dark. I could have done with a touch of hope sprinkled somewhere in there. Every scene with Jennifer as the grieving mom is filled with so much pain that it's almost unwatchable. I think because the entire movie stays at a sad, low level that it can cause the audience to turn off their own feelings and stop feeling for the characters because there aren't the ups and downs. There isn't a breather or anything lighter in quality before the story plunges into darkness again. It's all dark, so the darkest moments lose their intensity because there is no juxtaposition of emotions.

The best scenes were the ones between Joaquin and Mark, as Joaquin has no clue that Mark was the driver and Mark knows very well that Joaquin is the father. There's immense tension when these two people have to interact. Mark's character shows the audience the extreme pain of being on that side of the accident.
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Two for the price of one, but is the quality right too?
Harry T. Yung30 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
For convenience, I'll use the actors' names as if they were the characters'. Two families are sent by fate into a collision course in a small community is Connecticut. In a model of a perfect family, Joaquin Phoenix, an affluent professor, heads home with his wife and 2 grade school kids after attending the son's performance in a school concert. In a situation less fortunate but by no means uncommon, Mark Ruffalo, small-firm lawyer, delivers his son back his divorced wife after an over-long Red Sox game. Hit and run: Ruffalo hits and kills Phoenix's son at the edge of the highway in front of a gas station.

We have parallel stories: an agonized father consumed in fury trying to hunt down the "murderer", initially to bring him to justice and later to take justice into his own hands; an equally agonized "perpetrator" struggling with his conscience, debating whether to turn himself in. This is good dramatic material, but unfortunately not well presented, but salvaged somewhat by good acting. The result is an uneven movie that falls short of expectations, particularly in view of the cast which includes, in addition to the aforementioned leads, two Oscar-winning best supporting actresses.

Unlike many others, I don't consider Ruffalo being the lawyer that Phoenix employs to find the "murderer" an unacceptable contrivance, nor the fact that Ruffalo's estranged wife Mira Sorvino is the piano teacher of Phoenix's daughter Elle Fanning (Dakota's younger sister). After all, this is a small community and you will see "coincidences" ten times as incredible in eight out of ten other movies. What I do consider a contrivance is crafting something for Jennifer Connelly to blame herself for her son's death, just to add more dramatic conflict to the movie or simply to give her a more "explosive" scene. Connelly is a good enough actor to give any scene she is assigned something better than most others can, as she has demonstrated again in this movie.

The psychology of the couple facing the cruel tragedy is interesting. At the outset, they both have finding the killer very much on their minds. But it soon becomes clear that she only uses that to shield the pain of the devastating loss. As the story develops, she is ready to put the past to rest and face the future. On the contrary, after starting out as the more rational and self-controlled, he becomes more and more consumed in anger, when hunting down the killer becomes a blinding obsession. As mentioned, Connelly has brought more to the role than most others can. Phoenix has done as much as he can with the unhelpful script. But if you have watched "In the bedroom" (2001), you will recall Sissy Spacek clearly superior, blood-chilling portrayal of the bereaved mother seeking vengeance. (And if you look up the history of Oscar for that year, you'll see that it did not go to her but instead to a third-rate amateur who confused howling and yelling with acting, the biggest joke in Oscar's history).

The other story gives Ruffalo a fair challenge and he has given it a respectable show. If anything is to be blamed, it's the lame script, particular the ending in which he points a gun to his own head, pleading Phoenix to tell him to shoot himself. It's difficult to imagine a more unrealistic and moronic line and it's an insult to ask a respectable actor like Ruffalo to deliver it.

The "climatic" ending, as many pointed out, is lame and a letdown. There is nothing wrong with the ending itself and indeed that is what most people would expect anyway. It's just the sloppy way in which it's written. The REAL climax, and quite a good one, is where Phoenix meets Ruffalo at the "crime" scene. On the surface, it's the client asking the lawyer to help him reconstruct the events. But the palpable tension underneath is intense and certainly measures up to most thrillers. Here is one of the scenes where the script doesn't get in the way and the actors are allowed to deliver – Phoenix darkly menacing and Ruffalo beautifully underplaying. This one scene, which is close to the end of the movie, should not be missed.
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8/10
Memorable, but not memorable. . .
Ludwig_von_Mises31 December 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I could easily rate a hundred movies a day on here, and it would take a good month to go through all the movies I've seen (much less television episodes). With about half of those movies, I think to myself, 'This is that movie I'm thinking about, isn't it?'. Perhaps forty percent more I can distinctly remember having seen, and a few minor plot elements, but no more. Only a percent or two of those movies are truly memorable - are ones that you find yourself quoting (i.e. "Go ahead, make my day", etc.) This movie, however, falls somewhere between those two places.

I can remember watching this movie. I can remember quite a bit of it, despite having watched it months ago - probably a whole lot better than I can remember the other movies I watched at that time. I can also remember having been enthralled by the film. And yet, for the life of me, I cannot possibly remember why I liked it so much. Had I rated this title the day I watched it, I'd have probably given it ten stars; yet, after only a few months, the reasoning has completely escaped me. I typically give this type of movie a seven star rating, but something tells me it was far better than your average similar-themed drama.

The plot was good - with a tad too much irony, as is common in most Hollywood films. (It's not much of a SPOILER, but I'll list it as a SPOILER alert because I wouldn't have wanted to know had I read a review before having watched this movie.) The man who hits and kills Joaquin's character's son is the same lawyer whom Joaquin hires later on. Out of all the lawyers to be found in whatever city you are in (they make up a good 50 pages of my local telephone directory), he had to hire his son's killer. Sure, without that touch of irony, the movie wouldn't have been half as good as it was, yet something about it still, though making the movie, ruined it as well.

Anyway, this is definitely a movie I'd recommend (and have recommended) to anybody looking for a good, heartfelt drama.
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10/10
Reservation Road-Reserve this One for Keeps ****
edwagreen14 July 2009
This is an outstanding film that really showcases the dramatic depths of Mark Ruffalo, Joaquin Phoenix and Jennifer Connelly.

We're dealing with a first rate picture of a divorced attorney, on the road with his son, who accidentally hits and kills the young son of a college professor. Instead of turning himself in, the attorney (Ruffalo) panics and runs from the scene.

Can you imagine the irony of the situation when the professor hires the attorney's firm to keep the heat on the police?

This is not only a story of a tragedy, it goes into great depth concerning this horror's effects on the attorney, the professor and the professor's wife. All 3 of the actors turn in gems of performances with Ruffalo's exhibiting a major guilt feeling, an inconsolable Phoenix and Connelly, desperately trying to make a life with their surviving young daughter.

This story deals with the leniency of the courts in these types of cases. The gut-wrenching performances along with Mira Sorvino, in a serious role, as the music teacher and ex-husband of Ruffalo, will be well-remembered.
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10/10
Joaquin Phoenix
gobanifar14 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I was spellbound. I cried my eyes out. I think I know now why Joaquin Phoenix wants to walk away from acting. He was magnificent, as always. But the emotions you put into the movie must be extremely draining. Every movie that I've seen with Joaquin you can tell that he has invested a lot of his own self into the part he is playing. Such was the case for this movie. I felt the other actors were great too, but Joaquin was the standout, as he is in any movie he performs in. I hope he does stay in the acting profession because he has so much to offer, which is unique in today's times. I myself feel drained after watching the movie, so I can only imagine what it would be like to play that part.
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