A Couple Copes with Life After a Death in Rabbit Hole

One day you turn down one block instead of another and you think you might’ve been going 26 or 27 miles per hour instead of the posted 25. You see a dog run out into the road and you swerve left instead of right.

Now, let’s say you’re home with your toddler playing in the front yard. You hear the phone ring inside. You forgot to bring it outside, but the phone is only ten feet from the door so you decide to quickly run in and grab it. When you do, the family dog sees a squirrel and runs out into the street, the toddler following after.

What follows these simple choices from either scenario ends up changing your life forever. Maybe you ride a bus home from now on, too afraid to get behind the wheel again. Or spend your Monday evenings going to a support group.

These are the things that the film Rabbit Hole, starring Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart, touches on in very subtle and reserved ways. It is a story about a married couple who’ve spent eight months silently grieving over the death of their son without talking about it. Their marriage is afflicted by a void between them that has grown as they cope in their own separate ways.  But when the wife's sister (Tammy Blanchard)announces her pregnancy, the couple is forced to deal more openly with their grief.

Rabbit Hole is a film that sounds heavy, too much to bear on a Saturday night. While it might be an ‘in-the-mood’ picture, it isn’t as intense as the subject matter would lead you to believe. That isn’t to say it’s a light-hearted film, only that you aren’t given some mawkish death scene, for example. In fact, this film is completely free of melodrama. It’s sincere and poignant, but not a chore to wallow through.

Nicole Kidman plays Becca, a woman who has become emotionally distant, apathetic, and bitter. She resents her husband for what she perceives as being partially responsible for their son’s death (after all, it was his dog that ran into the road), therefore is unable to give or receive comfort from him. Their weekly support group is touchy-feely in all the wrong ways for her. We learn as she does that the only thing capable of giving her any comfort is what gives the movie its title – but I won’t give what it is away.

Kidman is a great actress capable of nuance and emotional weight. However, her synthetically-enhanced lips now occasionally belie the sincerity and authenticity she reaches for in these domestic dramas. How can we believe someone to be your average grieving mother next door when, at just the right light, her lips look like shiny balloons? Unfortunately, it’s much harder than it used to be to completely invest oneself emotionally in her performance. That said this is her best performance since 2003’s Dogville.

Aaron Eckhart, on the other hand, is much more credible and disarming as Howie. His performance as the grieving, yet functional husband, never once feels like an act.

Will they fall apart or find a way to move toward being happy again? It’s a question that gnaws in the background of this film and, like every other angle of this couple’s tragedy, is never shoved in our faces. John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) has crafted an adaptation of the stage play that is tasteful and sensitive to its subject matter (it helps that the playwright, David Lindsay-Abaire, wrote the script). Rabbit Hole may not inspire or bring a smile to your face, but it may touch and connect with you. After all, most domestic dramas try much harder with far fewer results than this one.


Should you see it? Rent

Rabbit Hole is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.


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