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Reservation Road - directed by Terry George

Wednesday 23 April 2008

When the life of a child is taken away at an early age after a hit and run, how do people react? If because you were unexpectedly distracted while driving – even for a split second – and that this caused you to hit a somebody on the side of the road, what would be your own reaction? These are the issues that Terry George, who four years ago directed the movie Hotel Rwanda, wants to explore in his new film, Reservation Road.

On the one hand you have the Learner family (with actors Joaquin Phoenix and Jennifer Connelly as parents). They are fairly well off and educated family with successful young children. On the other hand, you have Dwight Arno (Mark Ruffalo), a divorced man with a troubled but loving child. He is the all American father who takes his son to see baseball matches and eat hotdogs. These lives are changed forever when the Learner’s son is killed by Arno’s incoming car.

Terry George’s explorations of the confused emotions that one feels after tragic death are deeply insightful. His actors are extremely well chosen – Connelly and Phoenix are superb in their rendition of a torn family, pained by loss and troubled by a search for ‘justice’. On the other hand Ruffalo is unsurprisingly remarkable. One cannot but feel pity and remorse for him when he enacts a man whose very soul seems to be ripped apart by guilt.

Granted, Sean Penn has made a movie with an overarching theme which is very similar to Reservation Road. Yet Reservation Road was first a novel, written by John Burnham Schwartz. It is however interesting that the director’s touch is sometimes seemingly inspired by Penn. In both films, the directors are concerned with the fine line that exists between justice and revenge. Sean Penn’s The Crossing Guard showed a darkened Jack Nicholson, intent on waiting for his daughters’ drunk-driving killer to be released from jail in order to enact the supreme ‘justice’ via murder. Terry George’s character, on the other hand, lives in hell because he does not know who his sons’ killer is. He is eaten by paranoia, conspiracy plots and the need to enclose himself in secrecy. George’s Reservation Road is no rip-off. It is a deep and moving film, helped by a wonderful line-up.

Polo
P.S.: Still in love with Jennifer Connelly…

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