from the Austin Film Festival: A moving story for audiences who want drama, complexity in well-rounded characters, and twists in the expected.

Reservation Road

on October 19, 2007 by Randy Webb

This one is a straight drama and in mood and tone more like something you’d expect to see performed on stage than as a film. It’s hard to write a good review of this without risking a spoiler, it is so rich with intensity. The story of a hit and run that kills a young boy, the film belongs to Ruffalo who plays Dwight, the driver of the car that hits the boy, and to Phoenix who is the father of the boy who undertakes a search for his son’s “murderer.”

I won’t tell you how, but Director George and Mark Ruffalo manage to make Dwight a sympathetic character through the course of the movie despite his despicable act. And Joaquin Phoenix manages a complementary turn for the aggrieved Ethan Learner.

Mira Sorvino does a creditable job as Dwight’s (Ruffalo’s) ex-wife, while Jennifer Connelly puts in a superb performance as Ethan’s wife. The role was an excellent choice for her. As these women orbit around these men and their relationships with their children—Dwight has an 11 year-old son, and Elle Fanning plays the younger sister of the dead boy—the film drives to an expected ending with an unexpected twist.

It moves well throughout. The pacing is excellent. There are only a few minor flat spots in the scene work, one with Dwight and his son and another between Connelly and Phoenix. But even then it’s hard to say whether it was a flat moment from the actors or actually played that way because of the nature of the drama. Like George’s other efforts (e.g. In the Name of the Father ) it’s a dark and moving story well told, and worth the attention if what you want on the screen is a solid drama.

Writers: John Burnham Schwartz, Terry George
Director: Terry George
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Connelly, Mira Sorvino, Elle Fanning
Release Date: October 19, 2007 USA
Screened in its regional premier at the Austin Film Festival, Friday, October 12, 2007

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