Nobody does sheepish guilt like Mark Ruffalo. The doggedly boyish-looking actor from You Can Count On Me, We Don’t Live Here Anymore and (as proof he can do rom-coms as well as the next guy) 13 Going On 30 has a real penchant for playing remorseful dudes. That quality is perfect for his role as Reservation Road’s Dwight Arno, the man who leaves behind Ethan and Grace Learner’s (Joaquin Phoenix and Jennifer Connelly) son in a hit-and-run and then must live with the consequences. I spoke with Ruffalo during the Film Festival, where, fittingly, he spent the entire interview in shadow.
Always at the top of his game in every movie he does, Mark Ruffalo might be one of America’s most underrated actors, which may be why he’s unlikely to get nearly the attention he deserves for his performance in Reservation Road, an adaptation of John Burnham Schwartz’s stirring novel about the grief and guilt surrounding a hit ‘n’ run accident.
In this dramatic film adaptation by Terry George (Hotel Rwanda), Ruffalo plays Dwight Arno, a Connecticut lawyer who’s been separated from his wife (Mira Sorvino) but who still wants to spend time with his young son, something that might be taken away from him after a tragic accident in which he hits and kills a young boy with his SUV and then decides to drive off. Racked by guilt, Dwight suddenly finds himself in constant contact with the boy’s grieving parents, played by Joaquin Phoenix and Jennifer Connelly, without them realizing he’s to blame.
Most people seeing this movie will probably put their main focus on the grief suffered by the boy’s parents, but in actuality, Ruffalo has the more interesting part, as we watch him dealing with the repercussions of his action while struggling with the decision on whether to confess and face possible jail time.
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Not only is Mark Ruffalo one of the finest actors working today, he’s also probably the most self-effacing.
The former stage actor’s brand of performance is the kind that too often goes unnoticed. Like a chameleon, Ruffalo inhabits the space of a character to an extent that most don’t recognize the actor beneath. Sure enough, audiences end up showering his costars with recognition instead.
Overdue for some awards recognition of his own, Ruffalo has already punched in two memorable performances this year that could serve as his ticket to the Oscars, with stand-out roles in Zodiac and Reservation Road (which opens this Friday). Ruffalo would rather not play favourites. After some arm twisting he leans towards Zodiac, but not for his own purposes.
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