Reservation Road (review)

The gloom of inevitable tragedy that casts a pall over the closeness of small-town Connecticut — and two powerful and pitiful performances — not only save this family melodrama from itself: they make it a must-see for fans of stars Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Ruffalo… and for anyone keen to figure out why they are among the best young actors working today. A traffic accident on the titular stretch of country road brings Phoenix’s (We Own the Night) college prof — and husband and father — and Ruffalo’s (Zodiac) lawyer and divorced dad together in a mesh of grief and guilt the interconnections of which they are not even aware of at first. Coincidences that could have felt contrived, absent the force of their rooted and riveting descents into obsession and reaches for redemption, slide by, easily forgiven — Hotel Rwanda director Terry George, working from the novel by John Burnham Schwartz, knows how to avoid sentimentality in what is of necessity a sentimental story. Less easy to forgive is yet another cold, calculated turn by Jennifer Connelly (Blood Diamond), as Phoenix’s harpish wife — she is always hard to accept as a character with any kind of genuine emotions, and can’t stand up to the boys, which would have been the grace note to send the film into a more rarefied realm.

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