When the Learners are driving home from their son Josh’s recital, they stop off at a gas station where he is struck and killed by Dwight Arno (Mark Ruffalo) who is heading home from a Boston Red Sox game with his son Lucas. Dwight flees the scene while Ethan (Joaquin Phoenix) and Grace (Jennifer Connelly) mourn the death of their son. In the following weeks, Ethan becomes obsessed with finding the hit and run driver while Dwight deals with his guilt and tries to bond with his son against the backdrop of the 2004 Boston Red Sox historic World Series run.
Reservation Road had a lot going for it on paper. Phoenix, Connelly, and Ruffalo are all talented actors and Terry George (Hotel Rawanda) is an acclaimed up-and-coming director. However, Reservation Road fails to hit the emotional high notes that come with the territory. None of the actors are given much to do with the material, and the film’s pace is drearily slow. Connelly and Mira Sorvino are severely underused while Phoenix and Ruffalo don’t explore the depths of their characters. Everything is paint by numbers and the end result is a film that never lives up to its potential.
The film blunders what could have been a tragic irony for Dwight and his son, making the Red Sox World Series run, something that Boston fans waited almost 100 years for, marred by the hit and run accident. Those two strings are left dangling during the entire film and are never tied together in what could have been a strong knot.
Though despite its many drawbacks, there are some touching moments to be found in the blandness of Reservation Road, including Grace finding out the reason why Josh was hit (he was releasing some fire flies from a jar – something she told him to do when they got home), and the Learner’s daughter Emma, (Elle Fanning) dedicating the piano solo at her school recital to her dead brother. However, these and a few other touching moments do not make the banal remainder of the film worthwhile.
Reservation Road is presented with a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and has an autumnal color palate that is crisp and clear at all times.
The film’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is very quiet since the film is mostly comprised of dialogue. Some of it is spoken very low, and at times can be troubling to hear.
First up is the 14-minute making-of featurette Looking Back on Reservation Road. It’s pretty standard stuff. Mostly cast and crew interviews.
Next up are seven Deleted Scenes. Most of them would have slowed down the film’s pace even more, however one or two may have helped flesh out some of the characters.
Rounding out the disc’s features is an episode of the critically acclaimed NBC drama, Friday Night Lights. Since Universal is the parent company of both the film and the show, it makes a little sense to have them shamelessly promote their show on this disc. And ironically, the episode of FNL is the best thing going for this DVD.
Overall, Reservation Road on DVD is a ho-hum experience. The movie is a slow downer, the A/V specs are nothing to write home about and the film’s extras are limited and bland. Don’t be fooled by potential of the cast and director. Take a long way around Reservation Road.