Rabbit Hole

Director: John Cameron Mitchell
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Sandra Oh and Dianne Wiest
Distributor: Independent
Runtime: 91 mins. Reviewed in Nov 2011
| JustWatch |
Rating notes: Drug use and infrequent coarse language

This is a drama focusing on a couple who have lost their son, hit by a car outside his house. He is their only child and was four years old. Each of them tries to deal with their grief in their own way, but this sets up great tensions because they have reacted so differently. How can they come to terms with what has happened to their son and to them? Can they?

This is a well-written and well-acted film. It offers strong opportunities for Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart to show their dramatic skills. They work well with and against each other so that the audience is drawn into their conflict. Members of the audience will respond in different ways to the husband and to the wife, liking one and disliking the other, judging one and excusing or making allowances for the other.

Nicole Kidman is Becca. Her way of coping tends to suppress too much emotion and to move to a more cerebral stance. Aaron Eckhart is Howie, who is far more emotionally expressive, regretting Becca’s moves to eliminate what he values as memories of his son, his dog, the clothes and items in his room, even the suggestion to sell the house. He accompanies Becca to a help group but she is alienated by their outpourings and, especially, of their reliance on religious comfort and their talk of God. She laughs. She walks out. Howie continues to go and befriends Gaby (Sandra Oh) whose husband has walked out on her. Can she supply comfort and support for Howie? Comfort for herself?

What sustains Becca is tracking down the high school student who was the driver of the car. He is also living with regrets and a scruple that it may have been his fault, although the little boy had run out on to the street after his dog. The young man, Jason (Miles Teller) is finishing school but is a sketcher and is composing a graphic comic-book, Rabbit Hole.

Becca is also handicapped by her irresponsible sister, Izzy (Tammy Blanchard) and handicapped and helped by her rather simple and homespun mother (Dianne Wiest) who is still grieving the death of her adult son by an overdose. Becca resents her mother’s comparing the two deaths and the motherly grief.

While the film is serious, there are some humorous touches, which enable the audience to stay with the drama, with their own thoughts and feelings. The film derives from a play and part of the success of the film is that it has some very strong dialogue and speeches which express the inner life of each of the central characters.

The film is directed by John Cameron Mitchell, better known as a director of some sexually provocative features, Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Shortbus. He makes a very effective transition to more mainstream material with Rabbit Hole.

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