It’s taut, tough and heart-rending. Adapted from his own Pulitzer Prize-winning play by David Lindsay–Abaire, Rabbit Hole examines the devastating effect the accidental death of a young son has on the parents. The outcome is one of the more sensitive recent Hollywood films.
Filmed in an effectively low-key style and with a ear tuned to the cadence of conversations, maverick director Mitchell (Shortbus) draws us close to the hearts and minds of the grief-stricken couple. Their well-ordered lives are shattered after the four-year-old toddler is fatally knocked down by a passing car. Tellingly, the accident is never shown.
The bereaved parents’ trauma takes centre stage as they react to their loss in dramatically different ways. Constantly in denial, the wife (Kidman) wants to dispose off her son’s possessions, sell their house and erase all traces of the boy’s presence. She even vents her frustration at her widowed mother (Dianne Wiest, endearing as ever) when the latter tries to calm her down.
Her husband, meanwhile, adjusts relatively easier, finding comfort among other grieving couples in a counseling group or regularly watching home videos of his only child on the cell phone. It’s apparent that he’s intent on clinging on to his memories.
While holding up a mirror to what grief and anger can do to ordinary people, the script sets up several deeply touching encounters between the embittered wife and the blameless teenager (newcomer Miles Teller, outstanding) who was behind the wheel at the time of the accident.
Incidentally, the title of the film derives from the graphic novel about parallel universes that the youngster has just completed.
Nicole Kidman, who also serves as producer, delivers one of the most intense performances of her career. In the role of a man on the verge of imploding, Aaron Eckhart brings a tortured resignation to his conflicted character.
Every bit as subtle as it is insightful Rabbit Hole is a must-experience.