Reservation Road (2007)

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Released 20-Aug-2008

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Featurette-Making Of-(14:40) Excellent comments from writer, director, four stars
Deleted Scenes-(08:04) Seven short scenes 1.85:1, not enhanced
Rating ?
Year Of Production 2007
Running Time 97:46
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (59:22) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Terry George

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Joaquin Phoenix
Mark Ruffalo
Jennifer Connelly
Mira Sorvino
Elle Fanning
Eddie Alderson
Sean Curley
Samuel Ryan Finn
Cordell Clyde
Case ?
RPI ? Music Mark Isham

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Auto Pan & Scan Encoded English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes, Moderate
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Only opening credit is the title after 30 seconds

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis


    The first half of 2008 has given home video audiences a few rare adult dramatic treats. We have had The Kite Runner, Grace is Gone, and Gone Baby Gone, but nowhere is there a more compelling human drama than that found in Reservation Road, a movie which also contains three of the best performances of this, or any other year. I first experienced this movie some months ago on a Region 1 release, and now Roadshow have given it a welcome local release.

    Beginning without any credits, a few exterior shots establish the small town Connecticut setting, the smallness a vital element in the intermingling of lives. The community is idyllic, sunny and picturesque, nestled by the placid waterside. The title credit appears : Reservation Road. We see a small gathering of families, seated by the water watching a classical performance being given by a group of primary school aged students. Two of the parents are Ethan Learner (Joaquin Phoenix) and his wife Grace (Jennifer Connolly), and  beside them is daughter Emma (Elle Fanning). The performance ends and, with the sun seeming to emanate from within the radiant mother, the Learners wildly applaud a cellist in the ensemble,their fourth family member: "Yeah Josh (Sean Curley)!" This is "the good life". These people are blessed, with their comfortable professional lives and their comfortable houses, and their beautiful children. This is a complete family unit, loving and loved.
    We cut to another audience - the spectators at a Red Sox baseball game, rhythmically chanting "Let's go Red Sox! Let's Go!" Amongst the chanters is an incomplete family, Dwight Arno (Mark Ruffalo) and son Lucas (Eddie Alderson), father and son living through the separation of divorce, but bonded by the shared dedication to their baseball team. The boy is on his cell phone, a call from his mother, Ruth (Mira Sorvino), irate that Dwight has not returned Lucas on time from his visit with his father. Dwight gets on the phone, trying to explain that the game has gone into overtime, but is soon to end. With obvious tension, Dwight assures his ex-wife that he will get his son home as soon as he can. We cut back to the Learners, father and son skipping stones into the sunset red water. Then back to Dwight and Lucas, trapped and tense in a parking lot traffic jam. Back to the Leaners, with Emma urging her parents to "look what Josh got". Josh has captured some fireflies in a jar. Back to Dwight and son -  the father anxiously checking his watch as they speed along the dark highway. The Learners - with mother Grace gently insisting that the fireflies will have to be released once they get home or they would die. Emma announces that she needs to "pee", so Ethan pulls into a service station.
    This all takes place in the first five minutes of the movie. In the next few seconds these two families are involved in a catastrophe that will forever change all of their lives. I will not even hint at the plot developments of Reservation Road from this point on, as this film is an experience I would urge any adult to experience "unspoilt". Here you will not find sex, violence, aliens, slashers or spies. Incorretly described on the slick as a "thriller" - a term invented to describe the films of Alfred Hitchcock, but now almost meaningless from overuse - Reservation Road is adult, family drama which hinges around this terrifyingly possible accident and its impact upon those who have to continue with lives that can never be the same. John Burnham Schwartz's novel was published in 1998, its theme being "the power of one act to change lives". A few years later Schwartz turned his novel into a screenplay which Joaquin Phoenix then took to director Terry George (Hotel Rwanda). George then collaborated with Schwartz on the final screenplay, which he then directed. In the documentary extra, Terry George eloquently describes his work on the film:

        The story allowed me to investigate (the catastrophe) on two levels: what it does to individuals, how they try to overcome or come to terms with this grief, and at the same time investigate the motives of revenge, and hatred and fear and where that leads people.I think today the whole concept of an eye for an eye (is) a topic that needs to be delved into through drama.

Mark Ruffalo also has interesting insight into the movie:

    This movie is about forgiveness, about looking across at the other person who you hate, who you've demonized, and to go from that to seeing that there's a human being there ....

    The core of the film is undoubtedly the depiction of the two fathers. Working from the brilliant script, and under the superb direction of Terry George, Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Ruffalo give performances that are shattering in their honesty and intensity. They will  both break your hearts. This is great screen acting - as good as Spencer Tracey and Edward G. Robinson at their best. Too often awards are won by clever mimicry and extravagant histrionics - Forest Whitaker and Daniel Day Lewis - but here these two young actors are totally raw and real. There is just nothing better.

    Also excellent is Jennifer Connolly, in a performance no less intense or honest. She is an excellent actress, and totally deserved the supporting actress Hollywood Award she received for this last October. Two of the children have large, important roles, central to the film, and these young actors are remarkable. Elle Fanning proves that there is something very precious in the Fanning family genes, while Eddie Alderson achieves some remarkable moments on screen with Mark Ruffalo. There are unasked questions on this boy's face that are haunting. In a smaller role Mira Sorvino is wonderfully true, as are all the supporting players.

     The production values are immaculate. The autumnal photography by John Lindley and Mark Isham's music complement the emotional assault of the story. Everything about this film is perfection, a piece of cinema that rivets with its "reality", while at the same time uplifts with its art. I will let Terry George have the final word:

    So that's the challenge. To make it real and at the same time inject into it a sense of story and progression and fulfilment at the end of the story that people will feel that they've seen a part of life that they hope they'll never have to face, but at the same time learn how people go through that.

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Transfer Quality


    The video transfer of this movie is excellent.
    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced.
    The transfer is extremely sharp and clear throughout.
    Shadow detail is excellent, an important feature as many scenes take place at night.
    There is minimal low level noise.
    The colours are beautifully muted, suiting the autumn landscape and the dramatic tone of the film. Skin tones are excellent.
    There were no MPEG artefacts noted, and there were no film artefacts.

    The English Descriptive Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired were sampled and found to be accurate and excellent in providing the ambience of the film.

    The layer change occurs at 59:22 and is seamless.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio is excellent, rich and beautifully textured.
    There is only one audio track, English Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at 384  Kbps.
    The extensive dialogue was always clear and easy to understand.
    There were no drop-outs and no sync problems.
    Mark Isham's sensitive score is beautifully recorded by a smallish ensemble, at times rather like chamber music. Extensive use is made of the surround channels for Isham's music.
    The surround channels were also aggressively used for ambient sounds providing a rich aural experience throughout the family drama.
    Although not the kind of film in which you would expect to hear a great deal of sub-woofer activity, there is considerable "oomph" provided at appropriate moments.The crowd chanting, and stamping at the baseball game in the first few minutes is one "thumping" example.


Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use




    The Main Menu is presented in two stills of the leads over a highway background.There is no animation. Mark Isham's score provides the audio. Presented 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced.
    The options presented are :  Play 
                                               Scenes : Four screens, each with four thumbnails. No audio or animation.
                                               Bonus Features : Deleted Scenes
                                                                           Documentary : Looking Back on Reservation Road
                                               Subtitles : Descriptive Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired. These were sampled and found to be totally accurate.

Deleted Scenes: (08:04)
 Seven short scenes not included in the final cut - each one worth seeing in the context of the movie. It must have been a difficult decision to cut any of these.
 Presented 1.85:1, not enhanced, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio @ 192 Kbps.


Documentary : Looking Back on Reservation Road (14:40) : 
    Presented 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced with Dolby Digital audio @ 192 Kbps.
    My only criticism of this feature is that it is too short. Intelligent, sensitive and insightful comments from the author, director and four stars. Excellent quality.

Additional Trailers at Start-Up : All three trailers are 16x9 enhanced, and have Dolby Digital 2.0 audio encoded at 192 Kbps.
    Be Kind - Rewind (02.18) : Presented 2.35:1.
    Semi-Pro (02:22) : Presented 2.35:1.
    Never Back Down (01:47) : Presented 1.85:1.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 release is the same as that for Region 1 with the following exceptions:
                               The Region 1 release has : two additional sets of  subtitles, in French and Spanish.
                                                                        an animated version of the Main Menu screen
                                                                        a different set of Start-Up trailers.
                                                                        Episode from TV series Friday Night Lights : Last Days of Summer (44:50), ratio 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 5.1.


    After three viewings Reservation Road is one of my best films of the year. It is a rare dramatic gem, a harrowing human drama centring around a painfully real catastrophe. The performances of the two leading men, Mark Ruffalo and Joaquin Phoenix, are as good as it gets, with Jennifer Connolly also excellent in her slightly smaller role. A must see.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Monday, July 07, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDOnkyo-SP500, using Component output
DisplayPhilips Plasma 42FD9954/69c. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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