Director: John Cameron Mitchell
Rabbit Hole is the story of a couple’s grief following the death of their child. It is also a film in which, I am unashamed to say, I cried continually throughout. It was truly exhausting. However don’t let this put you off watching it. Although it doesn’t sound appealing, the film’s surprisingly cathartic qualities meant I actually came out of the darkened cinema feeling pretty optimistic.
Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie (Aaron Eckhart) are a couple, who after eight months are still struggling with the grief of their four year old son’s death. However as Rabbit Hole is set after the tragedy, the audience are saved from the excessive falsity of an actor attempting to portray the immediacy and intensity of the anguish. Instead we’re shown the abject poignancy of a tragedy, which has lingered on months after it occurred.
Rabbit Hole also attests to the depth of Nicole Kidman’s acting abilities. Always comfortable in the role of the controlling, emotionally distant woman, she once again plays the part to perfection here. She struggles alone with her internal emotional chaos, and rejects all attempts from her husband and family to comfort her. Despite this, you feel a profound sympathy for her suffering. Her rejection of religion and the “will of God” as a viable explanation for her son’s death is refreshing, an acknowledgement of modernity and the decline of religion as a fall back in times of trouble.
It is character development is what provides the optimism in this film. Becca and Howie face the gradual dissolution of their marriage in the face of grief, but Howie in particular (though tempted to take the easy way out) is bravely determined to make them work, and provides the audience with the light at the end of the tunnel.
In all fairness, it would have been hard for Rabbit Hole not to be good. Adapted from the Pulitzer Prize winning play from David Lindsay-Abaire, the dialogue is intense and burning, but devoid of excessive sentimentality. The only criticism I could make is on the slightly unbelievable and verging on soppy meetings between Becca and the teenager (Miles Teller) who was behind the wheel of the car that killed her son.
Though the subject matter of Rabbit Hole is not going to have people running to the cinema, it’s poignant observation of loss, grief and gradual alleviation is well worth the watch, despite the tears you will undoubtedly shed.
By Clare Jamie Burnett