Rabbit Hole


Rabbit Hole –sp David Lindsey–Abaire as screenwriter for this film, based on his own Pulitzer Prize winning play, really gets into the head and the emotions of two grieving parents 8 months after the death of their five year old son who died running after his beloved dog. We never meet Danny and barely see a picture of him but we come to clearly understand the relentless pain in all it’s forms which his parents Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie (Aaron Eckhart) are feeling. Each of them are  grieving in his and her own way which despite sharing this most personal tragedy and a good previous relationship, there seems to be  no room for empathy between them. Becca’s quest to find some way to deal with her deep dark feelings leads her to establish a relationship with Jason (Miles Teller), the 18 year old high school senior who swerved his car, which he confesses to her may have been going a mile or two over the speed limit, which led to the tragedy and  now has created a bond between them. Becca’s somewhat religious mother (Diane Wiest) whose son died at age 31 , eleven years previously, provides a counterpoint from where she is coming. Nicole Kidman who saw the original play and started the ball rolling to make it into a movie chose John Cameron Mitchell to direct it. Mitchell and Lindsey Abaire who were guests at our screening acknowledged that they complemented each other as they explored the fine points of this film. The director, who had only a 4 million dollar budget, shared with us that he let the actors steep  themselves into their emotional  roles which he appeared to nimbly direct as well as spending  a great deal of time in editing the fine points. He gave a touch of humor to   a primarily a dark movie and kept us the audience observing at a slight distance from the unimaginable tragedy. We did not shed a tear for the young boy who we did not meet or really know. As mental health professionals who have worked with many grieving patients, we had the feeling that we were empathizing with people we cared about, as we might with a patient who is   involved in their own dynamics that are unfolding before us at somewhat rapid pace. The fact that the writer, director and the actors really nailed the complicated feelings and interactions without ripping apart the guts of the audience (which they could have easily done) may be judged a shortcoming of the movie by some or the height of sophistication by others.

This movie also merits comparison with four other movies which we have seen in the past year and each of which shows attempts at dealing with grief in a different manner.

A Single Man shows Colin Firth in an Oscar nominated performance as George a college professor whose lover has died in an auto accident and in his grief he is on the verge of suicide when he meets a young student who cares about him. Robin Williams does an excellent job as an unsuccessful writer in World’s Greatest Dad grieving   a teenage son who committed  suicide. The father pretends his late son has written the story of being bullied and the result is a game changer for the community and for the dad which gives some meaning to this tragic loss.  The Lovely Bones deals with the murder of a young teenager (Saoirse Ronan) who had just begun to feel the glimmers of romance which leads the audience to feel her parent’s unresolved grief despite the youngsters ethereal existence. There is a small amount of compensation as the killer is caught through the efforts of the girl’s sister.  The film, which most closely resembles the Rabbit Hole, is The Greatest which brought together a comparable great performance by Pierce Brosman and Susan Sarandon who are the grieving parents of a teenager killed in car accident while he is with his girl friend played by Carey Mulligan. The potential for the parents to live with their grief is the unborn child being carried by the young girl friend whereas  in the film which we reviewed today,   the hope for a better future is only hinted by a subtle but important gesture at it’s conclusion. We thought these two were both excellent films The  Greatest didn’t achieve the critic’s Oscar acclaim and it appears that the Rabbit Hole may get some such bids. However overall, we rated the Rabbit Hole a notch lower. We certainly do believe that  this movie is the finest example and should be used as a teaching tool and stimulus for discussion for those who are studying the grieving process as well as a movie worth seeing for anyone interested in these all too real human emotions. (2010) ****

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