Rabbit Hole is about as gentle and low-key as a film about the loss of a young son can be. Most can only imagine what such a tragedy would be like for a set of parents. Rather than dwell on the negative, Rabbit Hole takes us through a couple’s steps of grief, acceptance, and ultimately forgiveness. While a little too neat and buttoned-up, it’s an effective character study that actually trends successfully into dark comedy territory during the second act.
Opening several months after their son, Danny, is killed in a car accident, parents Becca (Kidman) and Howie (Eckhart) are still doing their best to cope. Becca now stays at home all day, often tending to her garden and staying in the company of family and friends. Howie has his job and hobbies, but all of it is really just a cover-up for a relationship that has dwindled to a hollow shell. When the teenage boy who was behind the wheel, Jason (Teller), re-enters the picture and family tensions begin to rise, Becca and Howie must make choices – together – that will determine both of their futures.
Director John Cameron Mitchell, working from David Lindsay-Abaire’s screenplay, takes a very subdued approach to the material. It really feels like we are living in Becca and Howie’s day-to-day lives, as the scope of the tragedy is effectively communicated without any direct visual references to Danny’s actual death. Becca feels comfort in talking with Jason, while Howie finds solace in the same group therapy that Becca can’t stand. Lindsay-Abaire’s script brings a surprising amount of humor to the table, as that is sometimes how we best deal with the death of a loved one.
The cast is uniformly terrific, led by Nicole Kidman in a silent but powerful role. Becca is clearly still suffering mentally, and Kidman brings the full character to life. She wants to believe she still has control of her feelings, but certain events and exchanges can still make her bubble over. Aaron Eckhart takes a break from lighter fare and turns in a very effective dramatic performance. A scene in which he shows another couple Danny’s room is heartbreaking, and his similarly stoked anger is convincing. The supporting work by Dianne Wiest and Miles Teller is first-rate.
Rabbit Hole doesn’t really break any new barriers nor have anything groundbreaking to say. It’s an absorbing and compelling drama that manages to not be a total downer. The final scenes offer plenty of hope for Becca and Howie, even if the whole package feels a little too clean for the compact ninety minute runtime. With a very good cast, some well-timed, ice-breaking laughs and a solid core story, Rabbit Hole is recommended for genre fans.
Studio: Lions Gate Films
Length: 91 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material, some drug use and language.
Theatrical Release: December 17, 2010 (Limited)
Directed by: John Cameron Mitchell
Written by: David Lindsay-Abaire. Based upon the play by Lindsay-Abaire.
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Dianne Wiest, Miles Teller, Tammy Blanchard