Reservation Road Reviews
Now, the film is a slow one, featuring a few dull spots that may be far and few between, but are still very much here, though not quite enough, because you'll be wishing for a slow tone after a while under the film's primary tone. As much as I talk up how this film isn't terribly bleak, it doesn't get that way for lack of trying, for although the film isn't overwhelmingly maudlin to the point of feeling pretentious in its emotional resonance, it certainly unrelenting in its dark tone, leaving the film to feel overbearing and rather repetitive. To make matters worse, as much as I exaggerate my complaints about the film not being dark enough, the lack of bleakness is, in fact, a flaw, in that thorough darkness would have given this film genuine emotional weight; but as things stand, being that this is Mr. Cheesball himself, Terry George, outside of a few golden moments in effectiveness, the only thing genuine about the emotional resonance is the fact that it is mostly some good ol' fashion "genuine" manipulation. Again, George doesn't drench the film in pretentiousness, so its manipulations aren't mean-spirited, though you kind of wish that it was at points, because this film is so absurdly good-hearted that anything from finding out that the victim character, Josh Learner, was hit when he got out of the car to release fireflies (Which is enough of a manipulation on its own) to the detailing of how the boy was killed, feels forced as a story piece into the film, as well as forced as an emotional resonance tool upon the audience, leaving certain aspects in the emotional resonance to feel overly histrionic to the point of going almost entirely de-humanized. This story is as heavy as it is very worthy, and while Terry George's heart is very much in the right place, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Of course, in that sense, this film certainly knows how to surve from danger better than Mark Ruffalo's Dwight Arno character. Seriously though, the film is certainly flawed, as George is a little too inspired, yet one of the aspects that make this film so good and rewarding is the fact that, while George doesn't always pull back as much as he should, with all his emotional pushing and pushing, he finds many moments where he breaks through, and more often than you would expect.
As I said, the story is a worthy one, and while Terry George realizes that a little too much, he'll pull back quite often; maybe not as often or as thoroughly as he should, but when George does pull back, the film really shines, glowing with compellingness, especially when the more mystery-thriller type aspects come into play. George makes the transition from overwhelming drama to intriguing mystery quite comfortable and organic, partially because he touches both sides of the story with mutual intrigue and compellingness that he may overplay quite often, but there is ultimately enough weight and meat to the atmosphere in the film that it's hard to not find yourself drawn in, if not rather touched at some points. Still, for that, perhaps more than Terry George, praise has to go out to our performers, even if they do stand as rather contradictory to the tone of the film, in that the film is often rather histrionic, while the performers are human and believable across-the-board, with sweeping emotional power anchoring it all. As I said, Jennifer Connelly is one to break your heart, and that case is certainly no different here, as Connelly gives a deeply emotional and enthralling portrayal of the Grace Learner character's role as a broken, struggling woman who has faced the unthinkable and unbearable, yet tries to keep it together as much as she can, only to fall back to pieces. Connelly's performance is haunting and very memorable, yet the spotlight truly shines upon leading men Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Ruffalo, and rightfully so, as these boys really know what they're doing. Phoenix is as amazing as always in his performance as a man who has faced unparalleled tragedy and no closure, feeling trapped and as if the only person who can get the job done, and pretty thoroughly, is him, and watching Phoenix subtley and emotionally portray the Ethan Learner character's layered unraveling from a broken man to a totally unpredictable man is a haunting experience matched only by the man on the other side of the story, Mark Ruffalo, who is tense, enthralling and all around powerful in his fiery portrayal of a man wrapped in horrible guilt for a mistake he ran away from and has him wondering whether he should confess and face potentially life-destroying consequences or try to get away to a life already threatened by destruction at the hands of unpalatable anguish. These two powerful actors are electric and truly take your breath away at every breakthrough, whether it be a breakthrough in tension or emotion, thus creating a pair of truly remarkable leads whose powerfully-portrayed struggles stand as one of the biggest reasons why this film is so very worth the watch.
In conclusion, the road that is this film is a bumpy one, with some slow spots breaking up unrelenting emotional manipulation that often taints the film's human touch and leaves its potential somewhat squandered, though never destroys it, as director/writer Terry George often finds points where he transcends those missteps to create genuine emotional resonance, as well as tension in some parts, though doesn't at deliver on that as powerfully as his unforgettable cast of sweeping talents, headed by Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Ruffalo, both of whom deliver equally layered, emotional and deeply compelling lead performances to help in steering "Reservation Road" in the right direction, more often than not, and ultimately leaving it to drive on as a rather enjoyable and ultimately rewarding drama.
3/5 - Good
a decent flick overall