Grieving is not an easy process. Just ask Becca and Howie Corbett (Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart), a married couple who lost their four-year-old son eight months ago due to a freak car accident. Their communication is stilted, their professional lives harmed, their sex life finished. They crave to partake in a healthy existence once again, but mourning inhabits the heart of the smallest of an activity — attempting to ease back into a normal social life does little to diminish the lump that constantly rests in their throats.
Indeed, Rabbit Hole is not the sort of feel-good film most desire to submit themselves to when passing the time with a movie, but it is surprisingly hopeful, as if we’re acting as voyeur to the end of a nervous breakdown that can ultimately be recovered from. An adaptation of the critically acclaimed play of the same name (the film also written by its creator), Rabbit Hole is an affecting study of heartache, with Kidman and Eckhart acting as the psychologically tumultuous centers.
As the film opens, the Corbetts are dealing with their agony in ways that can only be described as temporary coping strategies. Howie regularly rewatches old home videos, refusing to accept reality, while Becca, who quit her job following the tragedy, sits at the house numbly with her thoughts brewing, eventually figuring it might be best to start giving away her son’s old clothes and toys as a way to acknowledge the present. They attend group therapy on a daily basis, but Becca cannot do much besides roll her eyes at the other attendees, who seem to wallow in their melancholy rather than overcome it. Howie begins a platonic friendship with Gabby (Sandra Oh), a fellow participant who seems to be the only person he can really talk to as himself. Family, especially Becca’s mother (a terrific Dianne Wiest), halt recovery, as they are similarly afflicted by the years-ago drug overdose of a sibling.
Neither is nearing toward a breakthrough, though — while the Corbetts will inevitably learn to grapple with their misery as something that will never leave them, they are at their rawest, their most susceptible to spiraling down a path of eternal torment. So we become hopeful when Becca does the unthinkable: get to know the teenager (Miles Teller) who accidentally killed her son that fateful day, learning that a single, awful event should never define someone for the rest of their lives. And so begins the healing process, with Howie, more slowly, submitting himself to acceptance too.
Rabbit Hole has already become an indie gem seen as more of a showcasing of the magnificent star power of Nicole Kidman (nominated for an Oscar here) than a full-fledged classic, being only 92 minutes and dealing with a topic that most don’t want to relive. But it is a brave and moving film, wonderfully acted and from the heart. Its visceral anguish is enough to send a shiver down our spines, so unfiltered and true that we can almost feel the pain the Corbetts go through so tirelessly.
Rabbit Hole hurts as much as it wants us to cheer — despite the gloom that ripples through its slender body, it is more about conquering hardship than it is about staying ensnared in a vicious cycle. And it feels good. B+