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Reservation Road Review

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An adaptation of John Burnham Schwartz’s 1998 novel which tells the tale of a hit-and-run accident and its effect on two families.

★★★★★

Terry George’s glum adaptation of John Burnham Schwartz’s 1998 novel tells the tale of a hit-and-run accident and its effect on two families, and despite the sort of cast and storyline that traditionally bait Oscars and garner awards across the board, is making its debut on DVD in this country. Divorced father Mark Ruffalo kills the son of Joaquin Phoenix and Jennifer Connelly while rushing to get his own boy home to ex-wife Mira Sorvino before losing his weekend access. Racked with guilt, he nevertheless disposes of the incriminating vehicle and tries to go on with his daily life, while an increasingly obsessive Phoenix, frustrated with the law, begins his own investigation.

Part of the film’s problem lies in its implausibility. The two families are already connected via the school where Sorvino teaches music, so Phoenix’s oblivious decision to secure Ruffalo’s services as a lawyer shortly after the tragic event feels like a coincidence too many, rather than the juicy irony it should be. The film also suffers from some unbalanced performances. Phoenix, in particular, goes all out for the overwrought grief, but while his relationship with Connelly is supposed to be the exemplary one - juxtaposed with the broken marriage of Ruffalo and Sorvino - there is little chemistry between the two, or sense of them as a successful family unit. Ruffalo, despite being the killer here, is actually the more sympathetic character and has the more genuine parent-child relationship. Both of the women are given short shrift - this is a movie about two fathers, which wastes the talents of Connelly and especially Sorvino in a handful of thankless scenes - and while this is admirably unsentimental in its treatment of child death (despite the cutesy presence of Elle Fanning, Dakota’s little sister), its distancing, cerebral chill goes too far the other way.

While this is admirably unsentimental in its treatment of child death, its distancing, cerebral chill goes too far the other way.