Reservation Road

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Reservation Road Movie Poster Image
Heartbreaking melodrama is too heavy for kids.
  • R
  • 2007
  • 102 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Dwight leaves the scene of his crime and doesn't turn himself in; Ethan fuels his grief with thoughts of revenge, which lead him to attempt murder.


Extremely disturbing image of a dead child face down in the street. Two men have a violent confrontation at gunpoint; a grieving mom screams and sobs, as does a little girl.


Grace and Ethan kiss and start to fool around in bed; they embrace in several scenes.


Grief and anger are expressed in strong language: "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "hell" "goddamn," etc.


Boston Red Sox memorabilia and clothes, Mrs. Meyer's soap, Ford Explorer, Volvo, Toyota Prius.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Depressed, Dwight drinks beer and hard liquor in a few scenes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this serious melodrama centers on the aftermath of a hit-and-run accident that kills a 10-year-old boy. His parents grieve in a realistic, disturbing-to-watch manner, and the child's lifeless body is shown on the road at least three times. The man responsible for the accident also grieves -- at some points by drinking heavily -- as he comes to grips with what he has done. There's also a confrontation at gunpoint between the two protagonists. With such upsetting themes (as well as strong language, including "f--k"), the film is iffy for kids and young teens.

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What's the story?

When Ethan (Joaquin Phoenix, bearded to mask his boyish face) and Grace (Jennifer Connelly) lose their 10-year-old son in a horrific accident, their anguish seems insurmountable. Meanwhile, the driver, Dwight (Mark Ruffalo), also the father of a 10-year-old boy, battles his guilt even as he covers it up. Eventually, Ethan hires Dwight's law firm to help him track down the killer motorist.

Is it any good?

Director Terry George is a master at conveying grief. But while the heart of the story -- how the two men, both caring fathers, drown in their feelings of guilt and anger -- is compelling and well acted, it's disappointing that Reservation Road doesn't delve further into the subtler ways their pain consumes them. Still, regardless of the film's overall merit, be prepared to cry ... a lot.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the movie portrays the two father characters. Dwight seems like a great dad, but he's only recently gotten overnight visits with his son, and he doesn't turn himself into the police. Ethan is also a loving husband and father, but he allows his grief to turn to an overwhelming need for vengeance. How does the movie focus on the similarities between them? Also, the end of the film may seem unsettling to some audiences. What do you think happens?

Movie details

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