Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie Corbett (Aaron Eckhart) are a happily married couple whose perfect world is forever changed when their young son, Danny (Phoenix List), is killed by a car.
Becca tries to redefine her existence in a surreal landscape of well-meaning family and friends. Her experiences lead her to find solace in a mysterious relationship with a troubled young comic-book artist, Jason (Miles Teller) – the teenage driver of the car that killed Danny.
Becca’s fixation with Jason pulls her away from memories of Danny, while Howie immerses himself in the past, seeking refuge in outsiders who offer him sympathy and condolences. The couple, both adrift, make disconcerting and hazardous choices as they find ways to cope with their loss.
Rabbit Hole, based on a stage play by David Lindsay-Abaire’s, is a piercing portrait of a couple struggling to cope with the death of their son. Lindsay-Abaire, who also wrote the screenplay, provides an surprisingly funny, intensely honest insight into how grief can affect people and force them in opposing directions.
The writing style is sly and witty – sometimes crushing, sometimes downright nasty – cleverly punctuating the overriding sense of despair, which, in tell, provides hope to the couple and their future.
John Cameron Mitchell’s direction is nuanced and fraught, encapsulating the grief with a certain level of restraint that manages to keep us far enough out-with the emotional core of the film, so not to become too troubled by the distressed subject-matter.
The emotional outbursts are as accustomed as they are agonising, accentuated perfectly by Kidman and Eckhart’s, whose raw performances never lets the material slip into the melodrama.
The performances from the entire cast are irreproachable. Kidman’s Becca is fragile and antsy, abandoned by her friends and former colleagues she lashes out at her family’s clumsy efforts to help. It’s clear that there is no way of curing the feeling of grief that’s become central to her being, when everyday life and occurrences become harrowing remembrances.
Eckhart’s Howie, on the other hand, is a less intricate but no less integral character, one that naturally exudes warmth and affection. He’s the devoted husband – and former father – who eats, sleeps and breathes his family. Even after all they’ve been through, he still has the desire, and strength, to fight to save his broken marriage.
Rabbit Hole is an impressively crafted, highly emotive and competent piece of cinema, bolstered by stand-out performances from Kidman and Eckhart.