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"RESERVATION ROAD"
(2007) (Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Ruffalo) (R)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Minor Minor Extreme Moderate Moderate
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Minor Mild Heavy None Heavy
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Moderate Minor Extreme Heavy Heavy


QUICK TAKE:
Drama: After being involved in a fatal hit and run accident, a lawyer must contend with the victim's father hiring him to find the perpetrator, unaware that he's the man he's looking for.
PLOT:
Ethan Learner (JOAQUIN PHOENIX) is a professor who lives in a small town in Connecticut with his wife, Grace (JENNIFER CONNELLY), and their two young kids, Josh (SEAN CURLEY) and Emma (ELLE FANNING). Lawyer Dwight Arno (MARK RUFFALO) also lives there, but he clearly isn't happy. That's mainly because he's divorced from his wife, Ruth (MIRA SORVINO), who's now married to Norris Wheldon (GARY KOHN), and she's never pleased when Dwight has brief custody of their son, Lucas (EDDIE ALDERSON).

Accordingly, and after an outing at a baseball game has made them late, Dwight is rushing Lucas home at night. Unbeknownst to them, the Learners have stopped for a bathroom break, and Josh is by the side of the road freeing some previously captured fireflies. When Dwight is distracted and drifts into oncoming traffic, he swerves the other way and strikes and kills Lucas, but panics and keeps driving. Lucas is jolted from his sleep and slightly injured, but otherwise oblivious to what's just occurred.

Ethan and his family are devastated, but when he thinks the police aren't doing enough, the professor decides to take matters into his own hands. That includes retaining legal representation, but he's unaware that the lawyer who's assigned to handle his case is none other than Dwight. The lawyer is racked with guilt, but knowing he'll never see his son again if he confesses or is discovered, Dwight then does everything in his power to cover his tracks.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
Unless they're fans of someone in the cast, only older teenagers seem likely to be interested in it.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: R
For language and some disturbing images.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • JOAQUIN PHOENIX plays a professor who's devastated by his son's death, but then becomes obsessed with finding the hit and run killer, all to the detriment of his marriage to Grace. He uses strong profanity, buys a gun, and threatens Dwight with it.
  • MARK RUFFALO plays a lawyer who, in a moment of haste and distraction, accidentally hits and kills Lucas, and then goes on the run. Racked with guilt but realizing the truth will mean he'll probably never see his son again, he tries to cover his tracks, even when that includes being hired as Ethan's lawyer to find the perp. He uses strong profanity, briefly smokes, and some drinking is implied.
  • JENNIFER CONNELLY plays Ethan's wife who's similarly devastated (particularly since she feels guilty of being the cause of what happened), but then becomes distraught over her husband's obsession with finding the killer.
  • MIRA SORVINO plays Dwight's ex-wife, a music teacher who still doesn't like him, especially when he has custody of their son.
  • ELLE FANNING plays Ethan and Grace's daughter who must contend with her brother's death.
  • EDDIE ALDERSON plays Dwight and Ruth's son who splits time between them.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.


    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).


    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    Here's a brief summary of the content found in this R-rated drama. Profanity consists of at least 7 "f" words, while other expletives and colorful phrases are uttered. A woman climbs onto her husband to have sex, but they stop before anything happens, while some men are seen shirtless and some cleavage is present.

    Violence includes a fatal hit and run accident, as well as a distraught father taking another man hostage at gunpoint, with some struggling and other contact occurring between them. Those scenes may be tense or unsettling for some viewers, while various characters have varying degrees of bad attitudes.

    A tremendous amount of tense family material and related thematic elements are present, revolving around the aftermath of a child being killed in that hit and run incident, as well as another couple (now divorced) still bickering over visitation rights and such regarding their son. Brief smoking occurs, and drinking is implied.

    Should you still be concerned about the film's appropriateness for yourself or anyone else in your home, you may want to look more closely at our detailed listings for more specific information regarding the film's content.

    For those prone to visually induced motion sickness, there is handheld camera movement in the film.


    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • We see an open bottle of booze on a table next to Dwight as he sleeps.
  • We see a beer by Dwight.
  • Asking how a person could commit a hit and run, Ethan asks if the person was drunk or on drugs.
  • We see a beer on a table by Dwight.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • Emma states that she needs to pee (while in the car, prompting a stop).
  • Lucas has some red marks on his face after he bumps it on the inside of the truck during the hit and run incident.
  • Awakened by noise in the house, Luke states that he has to pee. We then hear the sound of him urinating.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Dwight obviously has a bad attitude for trying to cover up the fact that he's the guilty party in the fatal hit and run accident.
  • There's tension between Dwight and Ruth over their son and Dwight's visitation rights. He complains that she always calling, checking up on him, and she's upset when Lucas is returned to her late and injured (from the hit and run incident).
  • Making a general check of all truck owners, some cops stop by Dwight's house to ask about his, and he lies that he's recently sold it.
  • We hear that Lucas was suspended for getting into a fight with another kid who needed stitches from the altercation (not seen).
  • When asked if he knew Josh at school, Luke says the boy was a "bit of a dweeb," but was otherwise nice.
  • Dwight lies to his son at various points in the film.
  • Ethan snoops around through Luke's bedroom, hoping to find a clue that will tie his dad to the crime. Finding a photo of Dwight, Luke, and the truck in question, Ethan then steals that framed photo before leaving.
  • Ethan buys a gun and then uses that to abduct and threaten Dwight, taking the law into his own hands.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • Distracted by a cell phone call, angry at his ex-wife, and speeding to get his son back to her, Dwight doesn't pay attention to the road. He drifts into the other lane, swerves due to an approaching car, and then strikes Josh who's by the road, releasing fireflies. The boy's body flies through the air and Ethan (who saw the accident) rushes to him, yelling at Grace and Emma (who didn't see it) to stay away. During that, Luke (who had earlier removed his seatbelt) smacks his head against the dashboard. Ethan and Grace are later told to go home as there's nothing more for them to do, and so they reluctantly do so, looking back through the rear cab window at their dead son's covered body on the road.
  • A cop tells Ethan and Grace about the autopsy results for their dead son, stating that a rib broke and went through the boy's heart, instantly killing him.
  • Making a general check of all truck owners, some cops stop by Dwight's house to ask about his, and he lies that he's recently sold it.
  • After Ethan takes photos of a diplomat's damaged truck, he's soon thereafter pulled over by the police and arrested at gunpoint.
  • Thinking Dwight is the culprit, Ethan has the lawyer meet him at the crime scene, testing to see if Dwight cracks under the pressure of the situation.
  • Ethan pushes Dwight to the floor and holds a gun on him, but both men stop when Luke calls out from his bedroom about the noise. Ethan then walks behind Dwight to the boy's room, keeping the gun on him at all times.
  • Ethan forces Dwight at gunpoint into his trunk. After arriving at their destination, Ethan wants Dwight to get out, and hits him with the gun to try to force him. During that, the gun fires into the trunk, but no one is harmed. Ethan then pushes Dwight along at gunpoint at night, and strikes him in the face. A struggle then ensues, the gun goes off to the side, and Dwight repeatedly punches Ethan in the face before grabbing the gun and aiming it at Ethan. Dwight then holds the gun to his own head in a suicide move, and pleads for Ethan to tell him to shoot himself, but Ethan doesn't (and thus Dwight doesn't). Dwight then throws the handgun into a lake.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • After Ethan takes photos of a diplomat's damaged truck, he's soon thereafter pulled over by the police and arrested at gunpoint.
  • Ethan calls a miscellaneous person about buying a handgun and then uses that gun to abduct and threaten Dwight (although the tables get turned and Dwight grabs the gun). Dwight then holds the gun to his own head in a suicide move, and pleads for Ethan to tell him to shoot himself, but Ethan doesn't (and thus Dwight doesn't). Dwight then throws the handgun into a lake.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "What the f*ck is wrong with you?" "No one seems to give a f*ck," "You f*cking animal," "Some kind of sh*t-fit," "That's bullsh*t," "Bird-sh*t," "Give me a G*ddamn break," "You're screwed," "Light a fire under their ass," "Are you an idiot," "A bit of a dweeb" and "Shut up."
  • JUMP SCENES
  • Dwight's truck suddenly (and accidentally) strikes Josh by the side of the road.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • A heavy amount of suspenseful and ominous music plays in the film.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • At least 7 "f" words, 7 "s" words, 1 ass, 1 S.O.B., 4 uses of "Oh God," 3 each of "G-damn," "Jesus," "Oh Jesus," "Oh Jesus Christ" and "Oh my God," and 1 use each of "Christ" and "Swear to God."
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • We see Ethan shirtless.
  • Ruth shows some cleavage.
  • We see Ethan shirtless in bed, having a nightmare. Grace consoles him, they start to kiss, and she climbs on top of him, but they then stop, with him apparently unable to continue. She then asks if it's her, and if he blames her for what happened (no nudity is seen on her part).
  • Ruth shows some cleavage.
  • We see Dwight shirtless in bed.
  • SMOKING
  • Dwight smokes at least once.
  • We see pack of cigarettes on a table next to Dwight as he sleeps.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • We learn that Dwight only has occasional visitation rights with his son.
  • Distracted by a cell phone call, angry at his ex-wife, and speeding to get his son back to her, Dwight doesn't pay attention to the road. He drifts into the other lane, swerves due to an approaching car, and then strikes Josh who's by the road, releasing fireflies. The boy's body flies through the air and Ethan (who saw the accident) rushes to him, yelling at Grace and Emma (who didn't see it) to stay away. During that, Luke (who had earlier removed his seatbelt) smacks his head against the dashboard. Ethan and Grace are later told to go home as there's nothing more for them to do, and so they reluctantly do so, looking back through the rear cab window at their dead son's covered body on the road.
  • Josh's death obviously creates massive grief for his family, and that lasts throughout the film.
  • There's tension between Dwight and Ruth over their son and Dwight's visitation rights. He complains that she always calling, checking up on him, and she's upset when Lucas is returned to her late and injured (from the hit and run incident).
  • We see the funeral scene for Josh.
  • A cop tells Ethan and Grace about the autopsy results for their dead son, stating that a rib broke and went through the boy's heart, instantly killing him.
  • Emma asks if you can hear music in Heaven (referring to her brother).
  • When his son asks why Dwight and his wife fought so much, Dwight says growing up he just thought that was how things were, stating that his father was the same way.
  • Grace wonders why Ethan is spending all of his time trying to solve the case, and he says it's because it's been a month and nothing has happened.
  • We see Ethan shirtless in bed, having a nightmare. Grace consoles him, they start to kiss, and she climbs on top of him, but they then stop, with him apparently unable to continue. She then asks if it's her, and if he blames her for what happened (no nudity is seen on her part).
  • When Ethan returns home, he's shocked to see that Grace is getting rid of their son's things. That causes tension between the two, including yelling at each other (him about why she's doing this, her about him thinking he's abandoned them).
  • Emma dedicates her piano recital to her dead brother.
  • Grace tells Ethan, "I don't know how to get you back" (to the person he was before the accident).
  • Lucas watches the video confession that his dad made about the hit and run accident.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • Dealing with the unexpected death of a family member.
  • Hit and run incidents.
  • Divorce and visitation rights.
  • The comment that the maximum penalty for the hit and run crime will probably only be a 10-year sentence.
  • Dwight's boss saying that they could sue the manufacturer of the truck grill that resulted in Josh's death.
  • From other family survivors of hit and run accidents, Ethan hears that there's never any closure, only acceptance and resignation.
  • The comment that there's no justice in the court system, only law.
  • Grace tells Ethan, "I don't know how to get you back" (to the person he was before the accident).
  • Ethan buys a gun and then uses that to abduct and threaten Dwight, taking the law into his own hands.
  • VIOLENCE
  • Distracted by a cell phone call, angry at his ex-wife, and speeding to get his son back to her, Dwight doesn't pay attention to the road. He drifts into the other lane, swerves due to an approaching car, and then strikes Josh who's by the road, releasing fireflies. The boy's body flies through the air and Ethan (who saw the accident) rushes to him, yelling at Grace and Emma (who didn't see it) to stay away. During that, Luke (who had earlier removed his seatbelt) smacks his head against the dashboard.
  • Ethan pushes Dwight to the floor and holds a gun on him, but both men stop when Luke calls out from his bedroom about the noise. Ethan then walks behind Dwight to the boy's room, keeping the gun on him at all times.
  • Ethan forces Dwight at gunpoint into his trunk. After arriving at their destination, Ethan wants Dwight to get out, and hits him with the gun to try to force him. During that, the gun fires into the trunk, but no one is harmed. Ethan then pushes Dwight along at gunpoint at night, and strikes him in the face. A struggle then ensues, the gun goes off to the side, and Dwight repeatedly punches Ethan in the face before grabbing the gun and aiming it at Ethan. Dwight then holds the gun to his own head in a suicide move, and pleads for Ethan to tell him to shoot himself, but Ethan doesn't (and thus Dwight doesn't). Dwight then throws the handgun into a lake.



  • Reviewed October 8, 2007 / Posted October 26, 2007

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