Saturday 24 February 2018

Film review: Rabbit Hole

Shines a light on grief

Paul Whitington

Perhaps coincidentally, Nicole Kidman is most convincing when playing prudish, emotionally remote women who are in the throes of crisis, and in that sense John Cameron Mitchell's Rabbit Hole is right up her street.

Adapted by David Lindsay-Abaire from his own acclaimed stage play, it takes us into the dark world of a married couple who've just endured an unthinkable nightmare. And though we don't immediately find out what that is, it's clear that Becca (Kidman) and Howie Corbett (Aaron Eckhart) are dealing with it in very different ways.

Eight months before we meet them, their four-year-old son was hit and killed by a car. He was their only child, but while Howie is keen to reconnect with Becca physically and maybe even try for another baby, Becca's head is somewhere else entirely. Howie has persuaded her to attend a group therapy session, but Becca merely tolerates this huggy-feely business, and soon stops going altogether.

Becca cannot communicate or even acknowledge the depth of her grief, so instead she lashes out at anyone who tries to help her and burrows deep into herself. This gets worse when her younger sister announces she's pregnant, and although Becca's mother Nat (Dianne Wiest) can understand how she feels, having lost a son herself to a drug overdose, Becca bitterly resents this comparison. Bizarrely, the one person she does feel a connection with is Jason (Miles Teller), the unfortunate teenager who was driving the car that killed the boy. She regularly follows him home from school and eventually they form a surprisingly tender relationship.

Though visually unremarkable, what John Cameron Mitchell's film does extremely well is examine the nature of grief without ever resorting to mawkish sentiment. Becca and Howie's story is unravelled with considerable skill, and Kidman delivers one of her most complete performances. Eckhart supports her very well: he's a versatile, capable and underrated actor. And Wiest lends the film some much-needed heart.

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