x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Reservation Road

Lacking in heart, writes Ella Stimson, and curiously flat and overblown at the same time.

Judging by it's pedigree, Reservation Road should be a fantastic film. Starring Joaquin Phoenix (Gladiator, Walk the Line), Jennifer Connelly (Requiem for a Dream, A Beautiful Mind) and Mark Ruffalo (Zodiac) and directed by Terry George (In the Name of the Father, Hotel Rwanda), it has everything going for it. So it comes as something of a disappointment that all of these people have got themselves involved with such a mediocre project. Phoenix and Connelly play a couple whose son is killed in a hit-and-run accident. Ruffalo is the small time lawyer who was behind the wheel. Obsessed with getting justice (or, failing that, revenge) for his dead son, Phoenix unwittingly hires Ruffalo for legal advice. Meanwhile, his daughter is taking piano lessons from Ruffalo's ex-wife. The hokey coincidences give the film the feel of a made-for-TV melodrama, without even the consolation of it being based on a true story. I can well imagine that in the acclaimed novel on which the film is based, the narratives of guilt, grief, revenge and redemption were more affecting, and the psychological drama more involving. But the film is lacking in heart, and curiously flat and overblown at the same time, thanks largely to its over-reliance on demonstrating emotion through expositional speeches, rather than convincing the viewer of the truth of it. Not even half as powerful as it thinks it is.