RABBIT HOLE is the story of Becca and Howie, two parents that lost their child in a tragic accident eight months ago. We don’t have to go much further for you to understand that this is a downer of a film. Their dealing with their son’s death is the primary focus on the film and it never lets you forget that. The good news is that their attempt to move on from his death is the theme of the film and that hope at the end of the tunnel is what keeps them, and the movie, going. But it takes an emotional toll on the audience as we watch these two people deal with a tragedy most of us could never imagine.
It’s somewhat common knowledge that couples that suffer through the death of a child almost always wind up getting divorced. That statistical fact hangs in the background of RABBIT HOLE as we see just how difficult it is for Becca and Howie to move on. It’s not just finding a way to deal, but they have to find a way to deal with it together, which is where the struggle comes from. Howie deals with it by hanging out with someone else and letting loose while Becca confronts the driver of the car that hit and killed her son. Both actions are common ways to deal with grief (forget and blame), but when a couple goes their separate ways as Becca and Howie have, we can’t help but wonder if they’ll find their way back to each other.
This is an actor’s film in that it’s dialogue heavy and forces the actors to express a wide range of emotions. Director John Cameron Mitchell was wise to cast veterans Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart in the lead roles and just let them do their thing. When Becca and Howie have the conversation in their living room where Howie finally tells Becca that he “can’t do this anymore”, I was mesmerized by their performances. That entire sequence was awkward, heart wrenching and incredible all at the same time. I fully believed these two people were struggling to cope and the amazing performances from Kidman and Eckhart made that possible.
I thought the inclusion of Becca’s mother, played wonderfully by Diane Wiest, was the one drawback to the film. Wiest was great, but I didn’t like her character being in the film. I thought she took away from Becca’s pain and added another emotion to the film that wasn’t needed. I liked her sister’s character, only because she added another depth to the pain because she was pregnant. I would have liked to see more of Becca and Howie in their group therapy and their interactions with other couples that had lost a child along with more talk from Becca about God’s role in their child’s death. A few tweaks here and there would have pushed a good movie into greatness.
As much as I loved the performances and was captivated by the subject matter, I can honestly say I will never watch this film again. It’s an emotionally heavy movie that makes its 90 minute runtime feel like much longer. Mitchell did a wonderful job at making the audience feel like we were a part of this couple’s family and at times, we felt like we were carrying their emotional burden.