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6 Degrees Entertainment

'Reservation Road'
(Joaquin Phoenix, Elle Fanning, Jennifer Connelly, Mark Ruffalo, et al / DVD / R / (2007) 2008 / Universal)

Overview: Academy Award® nominee Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Ruffalo and Academy Award® winners Jennifer Connelly and Mira Sorvino deliver riveting performances in the gripping thriller Reservation Road. A powerful human story of anger, revenge and great courage, this film takes you on an intense journey that follows two fathers as their families and lives converge after the events of one fateful night.

DVD Verdict: The profound effects of the accidental death of a child on three families is vividly portrayed in this dark film by writer/director Terry George ('Hotel Rwanda', Hart's War', 'In the Name of the Father') as adapted and co-written by John Burnham Schwartz on whose novel the film is based. While it seems we are seeing a glut of films dealing with revenge on the part of injured people who feel the Law isn't fulfilling its duty, when a film such as 'Reservation Road' comes along the theme feels fresh.

Ethan and Grace Learner (Joaquin Phoenix and Jennifer Connelly) and their children Josh (Sean Curley) and Emma (Elle Fanning) are the 'perfect family', living comfortably in Connecticut, until one night after a picnic where Josh captured fireflies for his sister, the family stops at a roadside station and while Josh releases the fireflies at his mother's request he is hit by a car and killed. The driver of the car is Dwight Arno (Mark Ruffalo) who is trying to return his son Lucas (Eddie Alderson) to his estranged, remarried wife Ruth (Mira Sorvino) after a baseball game that ran too long. Instead of stopping when he hits the child, Dwight drives on, not wanting to upset his son. Within the tragedy of the next week the Learners are devastated and feel the police are not finding the perpetrator.

They decide to engage a lawyer to assist the investigation and the lawyer they engage is Dwight, a man so torn by the sadness of his life that he is barely functioning - trying to find some solace in restoring a solid relationship with his son while dealing with the fact that he has killed another family's son. The events that proceed reveal the agonies of the accident and the effect of that death on both Ethan (enraged) and Grace (desperately trying to focus on her remaining child), and on Dwight (obsessed with guilt and driven to thoughts of suicide) and his ex-wife Ruth who acts as an unknowing intermediary. The final effects on each of these bruised people bring a surprising end to the story.

The quality of acting is strong as we have come to expect with the likes of Phoenix, Connelly, Ruffalo and Sorvino, who bring us into the tough story with considerable commitment: we understand the thoughts and drives of each of these sad characters. Adding to the sensitive atmosphere is yet another strong musical score by Mark Isham who understands the fine art of creating a soundtrack that enhances the story. The theme may be a bit repetitive and the script somewhat formulaic, but the emotional effect on the viewer cannot be denied. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Deleted Scenes
Looking back on Reservation Road: Watch the award-winning cast as they work to create this powerful tale