Rabbit Hole Review: The Warrens Of Thought

Rabbithole300RABBIT HOLE (12A): On General Release Friday 4th January

Rabbit Hole tells the story of Becca and Howie Corbett, an affluent couple from a suburban neighbourhood trying to come to terms with the death of their four year old son. Becca’s newly pregnant sister Izzy (Tammy Blanchard) and slightly tipsy mother Nat (Dianne Wiest) try to help but only seem to make things worse and group counselling sessions cause further alienation because Howie finds them comforting while Becca finds their over-reliance on faith patronising.

When Becca decides to leave therapy, she forms an odd friendship with Jason (Miles Teller), the teenage driver of the car which killed her son and they begin to meet in secret. Meanwhile Howie strikes up a friendship with Gaby (Sandra Oh), a fellow group member who’s recently been left by her husband.

While the subject matter doesn’t exactly conjure images of sunshine and rainbows and it’s true Rabbit Hole is at its heart melancholy, it’s also surprising funny with a wry, bone-dry wit and sharp humour throughout.

John Cameron Mitchell’s direction wisely never wallows in over-sentimentality. What could have been endless lingering shots of the grief-stricken couple blubbing into their cornflakes is instead a warm, tender and above all three-dimensional observation about two people dealing with loss in their own ways.

To an outsider things might seem normal – Howie goes to work, Becca loses herself in domestic chores and exercise, life goes on as it always did, but now a shadow has been indelibly cast over their lives; they’re surrounded by a house full of memories; their home somehow seems larger, hollower than it did before, and while Becca’s mother and sister clearly have the best of intentions, they’re harshly rebuffed – there’s something so personal about her tragedy that it almost feels like sacrilege to say that they empathise.

Nicole Kidman gives one of the performances of her career as Becca; she’s detached and distant but her composure is like the surface of an egg, flawless but easily cracked. Howie is not so obviously damaged; he finds comfort in watching looped videos of his son and in the counselling sessions but Eckhart infuses the character with a deep sadness that underscores an outwardly sunny disposition.

Miles Teller also gives a captivating performance as Jason, a teenager no less wracked with the guilt of the accident. He’s very much the anchor for Becca; befriending him is a way to keep her grief grounded – a moving scene in which he gives her a comic book he’s been working on enables her to find the solace that she couldn’t in faith in his idea of parallel universes.

David Lindsay-Abaire’s script (adapted from his Pulitzer Prize-winning play) is simply superb and it’s a terrible oversight that it’s been overlooked for Best Adapted Screenplay this year. There are no platitudes or heavy-handed empathy here, no trite clichés or crass symbolism. Instead characters occasionally react powerfully to seemingly benign statements; calm surfaces belie churning emotional undercurrents; some things aren’t fixable with words and some wounds never fully heal.

Kidman and Eckhart’s performances are first rate but it’s Lindsay-Abaire’s script and John Cameron Mitchell’s direction which makes Rabbit Hole a complex and authentic portrayal of grief, one which impressively manages to suffuse the theme of loss with a biting, sharply-observed humour.