On a warm September evening, college professor Ethan Learner, his wife Grace, and their daughter Emma are attending a recital. Their 10-year-old son Josh 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 and his 11-year-old son Lucas 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, 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 ...Written by
The gas station where the family stops, is actually the Olde Blue Bird Inn in Easton, Connecticut. See more »
Dwight and his son watch Game 3 of the 2004 World Series together. Earlier, when Ethan looking up "hit and run" on Google, the Google copyright date is 2006. See more »
[talking into camera]
It was an accident, but what I did was terribly wrong. I left that night because I was afraid of losing you. And that's no excuse. I'm gonna go to prison, and I deserve to go to prison.
[regaining his composure]
People are gonna talk behind your back. They're gonna say hurtful things, but I just wanna urge you to remember these days that we've had together. I feel like for the first time I've been able to be the father to you that you deserve, and they've really been the ...
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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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