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Grace and Ethan Learner have so much going for them. Ethan is a professor and their two beautiful children are very talented in the world of music. Both can play instruments extremely well, and things are just absolutely perfect. Dwight Arno, on the other hand, doesn’t have the best life. Things are OK, but not nearly up at the same level of the Learners. Dwight is a successful lawyer that gets his son Lucas about every other weekend since he is now divorced from his wife Ruth. Dwight and Ethan do not know one another, but a single incident is about to bring their lives together in a way they never could have expected.
One fateful night Dwight is rushed because the Red Sox game he brought Lucas to is running late and Ruth is not happy that her son isn’t home on time. Dwight is annoyed and in a bit of a panic so as to try and avoid any type of confrontation. Ethan and the rest of the Learner family are on their way home from son Josh’s music recital. They stop at a gas station and Josh goes to release some fireflies he caught for his sister. As he stands at the roadside letting them go, Dwight’s car comes around the corner in a hurry and almost collides with an oncoming vehicle so he swerves and makes it out of the way just in time. Out of the way of the vehicle, but not out of the way of Josh.
Ethan runs over to his son Josh, but it is too late. He looks up and catches a glimpse of the dark-colored SUV as it pauses for a second and then drives off. Ethan now has his dead son in his hands and no idea as to who his killer is. Dwight has driven on and dropped his son off to Ruth, but is finding it hard to live with what he knows happened back at the curve on Reservation Road. In the wake of the night he argues and fights with himself as to whether he should turn himself in or not, yet he takes all measures to cover up what he did. Time passes on and he seems to begin to be able to live his life, but Ethan hasn’t been able to adjust as well. He is still searching for his son’s killer and since the police aren’t moving fast enough, he has taken the investigation into his own hands. Ethan has decided to hire a lawyer to help him catch the killer, and the lawyer assigned to his case is none other then Dwight Arno.
There is no real way to describe the horror that is portrayed in Reservation Road. I don’t have children, but found myself constantly questioning as to what would I do and how could I live? Those are questions that I asked for both sides of the situation at hand. Dwight is dealing constantly with knowing that he killed a young boy and got away with it. Ethan is dealing with the fact that his child was taken from him way too early and his killer has gotten off scott-free. Yet are things made even more difficult for Dwight when Ethan comes and seeks his help. Ethan does not know that it was Dwight driving the Explorer that night so he is putting his trust in him to help find Josh’s killer. Dwight must now look in this stranger’s, yet not so much a stranger, face and help him yet know he is guilty. Who’s to say who is worse off here?
Reservation Road isn’t an easy film to watch because it’s one that doesn’t ooze with happiness. Well, it barely even annoyingly drips every six hours with any happiness. I recall smiling or just smirking maybe twice throughout. The rest of the film is spent watching two human beings agonize over the same situation which is affecting them in totally different ways. Reservation Road does a nice job of allowing the viewers to put themselves in the places of Ethan and Dwight. You can’t quite understand or truly feel what they are, but you experience some of the same emotions. As you watch scenes with Dwight, you’ll feel fear and guilt. The scenes with Ethan make you feel complete sadness and anger with pains of revenge flowing inside.
One problem the film has is Jennifer Connelly’s character Grace. Perhaps I’m not the one who is really at liberty to say this because I don’t know the exact feelings and emotions a mother who lost her child would throw, but here goes. She just doesn’t seem like she cares much. The first week or two where she stays in the house and just sulks; it’s like it never happened or something. Yeah, one can understand trying to move on, but actually giving away all of your dead son’s possessions just a month after he is gone? Come on now, that’s just a bit harsh. Maybe I’m overreacting here, but she just seems to really not give so much as a damn after the initial shock is gone and that bothered me.
The film is shown in 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen format and it looks great from all aspects and in all colors. There are a few moments here and there which can be a tad dark, but not for very long.
The film is heard in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and there are a couple times when it is hard to hear what the characters are saying on screen. It is usually while they are crying or whispering, but the volume needed to be adjusted here and there.
Deleted Scenes – There are six deleted scenes and none of them would have really added much if left in the film, but one would have. One deleted scene has Grace listening over and over again to an answering machine message from her deceased son. It is a simple scene yet it would have added a little bit more to her character showing that she really did still miss him.
Look Back On Reservation Road (14:40) – This feature is a “making of” piece. Just about every actor involved gives their feelings about the production and what they think the story is truly about. Very simple and by the book.
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Reservation Road is one of those films that you are either going to love or you’re going to hate. There is no in between. It’s also a film that you probably won’t end up watching more then once. There is so much depression and sadness that I can’t imagine someone ever being in the mood to want to watch it a second time. Don’t get me wrong because it is very good and needs to be seen by everyone, but that single viewing will be enough. The special features are very limited and rather confusing honestly. Perhaps it is because I don’t watch the show, but could someone please explain to me the significance of an episode of Friday Night Lights being included on this DVD? Could that be any more random? Anyway, Reservation Road is highly recommended as a rental or even a purchase if you can get it on the cheap. You should all watch this film; just be prepared to not be happy for a while afterwards.
Universal Studios presents Reservation Road. Directed by: Terry George. Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Joaquin Phoenix, Jennifer Connelly, Mira Sorvino. Written by: John Burnham Schwarz & Terry George. Running time: 103 minutes. Rating: R. Released on DVD: April 8, 2008. Available at Amazon.com