This has been the year of the revenge picture. First came the abominable Death Sentence, then the extremely problematic yet far superior The Brave One. Now comes Reservation Road, a film that doesn't look or feel like those aforementioned thrillers, but deals with the same basic themes, namely tragic loss, grief, rage and the quest for revenge. Too bad it offers nothing more perceptive or discerning than its blood-soaked predecessors.
Reservation Road opens with every parent's worst fear—the loss of a child. On their way home from an outdoor student concert late in the evening, the Learner family (father Ethan played by Joaquin Phoenix and mother Grace played by Jennifer Connelly) stops at a gas station so daughter Emma (Elle Fanning) can use the facilities. While waiting for his sister, young Josh Learner (Sean Curley) crosses the rural Connecticut road to release some fireflies from a bell jar and is struck and killed by a passing SUV.
The man behind the wheel is Dwight Arno (Mark Ruffalo), who's racing back from Fenway Park where he and his son Lucas (Eddie Alderson) have just watched the Boston Red Sox secure a spot at the 2004 World Series. He's going a lot faster than he should because his impatient ex-wife, Ruth (Mira Sorvino) is anxious for her son's return. Unable to make out what he's hit, Dwight hesitates for a moment, but, in a panic, he barrels on before his groggy son can make out what happened.
Devastated, the Learners try to come to terms with their loss. Grace blames herself for the death of her son, but must surmount her self-loathing in order to be strong for the rest of her family. Her increasingly estranged husband becomes fixated on the incident and obsessed with achieving justice by any means necessary. ...