Sunday 8 January 2012

Movie Review: Rabbit Hole (2010)

The struggle to deal with the death of a child must be the most cruel challenge that parents can face. Rabbit Hole examines the life of an anguished couple at the crossroads, months after the trauma of losing their son. It's a heartfelt, well-acted and human-scaled movie, looking for the faintest sign of light within abject darkness.

Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie (Aaron Eckhart) are barely hanging on to their marriage. It's been eight months since six-year-old Danny was struck and killed by a car as he chased after the family dog. Becca is keeping her emotions mostly to herself, and is unable to respond to Howie's romantic advances. Becca is also not interested in joining a support group, so Howie goes alone, and starts spending time with Gabby (Sandra Oh), who lost a child many years ago.

Becca's mental state is not helped by her mother Nat (Dianne Wiest) continuously bringing up her own lost child, while Becca's irresponsible sister Izzy (Tammy Blanchard) adds to the tension by getting herself pregnant. Without quite knowing why, Becca finds herself initiating contact with Jason (Miles Teller), the teenager driving the car that killed Danny. Depending on the very few critical decisions that they will get to make, the relationship between Becca and Howie will be either destroyed or placed on the slow road to recovery.

Adapted by David Lindsay-Abaire from his own play, and easily liberated from the confines of the stage, Rabbit Hole is an authentic essay on altered emotions post-tragedy. The outbursts are mercifully rare, while director John Cameron Mitchell lingers on the discomfort, silence and disrupted communications dominating day-to-day life as Becca and Howie struggle to cope. Guilt, blame, despair, resignation, and a soul-shaking sorrow smother the marriage, and for the couple to reconnect will require patience and a pro-active willingness to overcome instinctive reactions.

As an understated drama, Rabbit Hole demands stellar acting and the cast obliges. Nicole Kidman delivers a tender performance, a mother struggling between the natural tendency to turn inwards and the missteps that seem to accompany her every action whenever she tries to reach out. Aaron Eckhart's Howie is more stoic but equally conflicted, wanting to hold on to fragments of his son's life while wondering why his wife is not moving on as quickly as he is. Dianne Wiest as Nat is surprisingly influential in her daughters' lives, and the sometimes stormy but mostly loving relationship between Becca and Nat rings true.

Rabbit Hole seeks the seeds of new beginnings in the embers of tragedy. They are always there; it's just a matter of deciding to look, or not.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

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