A “Rabbit Hole” of Truth
Adapted from David Lindsay-Abaire’s 2005 play of the same name, ”Rabbit Hole” delves into the everyday lives of a couple dealing with the loss of their 4-year-old son. Directed by John Cameron Mitchell (“Shortbus”), this film is one that you do not want to miss.
When their son Danny (Phoenix List) is killed by a car while chasing his dog into the street, Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie Corbett (Aaron Eckhart) live with this everlasting pain and the feeling of an incomplete life even eight months after the accident.
It is clear that the two have very distinct ways of dealing with the pain, and they do so separately. Howie holds on to the memories of his son, while Becca removes them from sight. The two fight one night after Becca accidentally deletes a video that Howie had of Danny. Howie accuses Becca of “trying to get rid of any evidence he was ever here” and ends the conversation by saying that something has to change.
The two are even out of sync at a couple’s counseling session, where Becca makes a disparaging remark after another couple tries to explain how they cope with the pain of losing their child. After this incident, Howie sticks with the counseling sessions while Becca stops going and instead begins to meet with Jason (Miles Teller), the driver of the car that took Danny’s life. As the film progresses, Becca and Howie grow farther apart, each finding solace and comfort in their juxtaposed environments.
Mitchell tells a very real and natural story, without stereotypes or clichéd situations. It is his loyalty to the story that makes “Rabbit Hole” such a success. He focuses on the characters and their individual struggles instead of trying to make the film “cool” or fancy. There are no scenes which are unbelievably emotional or fabricated, since everything feels authentic.
The film’s authenticity is due largely to the fact that Mitchell himself lost a younger sibling when he was growing up. He has had first-hand experience with the subject and could therefore present a very natural film.
There is a sense of uncertainty as the film progresses; it is never clear where the characters will end up. The phrase “rabbit hole” is a metaphor for adventuring into the unknown, and therefore is a very fitting title for the film, as neither Becca nor Howie are certain about what will happen with them.
Kidman gives the performance of a lifetime as Becca. She communicates the isolation that Becca feels from the rest of the world beautifully and never overacts. She gives Becca a passive-aggressive mannerism which fits perfectly with the film.
As the grieving father who lost his little boy, Eckhart portrays Howie masterfully. His performance undoubtedly places him among the top actors of his generation. He knows which emotions to tap, especially in the scene where his character accuses Becca of trying to get rid of Danny’s memories.
Tammy Blanchard gives a commendable performance as Becca’s younger and less responsible sister. Sandra Oh follows suit with her role as the woman who provides Howie with an escape from his grief and sad home life. Both of these performances, along with those of the other cast members, are admirable and propel the film forward.
Mitchell creates a very visually and emotionally beautiful film, giving it a very calm feeling, and the fact that he shot the film digitally with the Red camera contributes largely to this. This camera allows maximum performance from the actors because you never have to cut a scene. It also gives the film a very soft and tranquil color scheme.
The film’s peaceful feeling is supported by the environment in which the film was shot, for the Corbetts live in a nice part of town and the characters in the film frequent places like restaurants, gyms, parks, corporate buildings and streets – all of which are tranquil.
The music in the film is soft and slow, and complements the film perfectly, as there are no overly dramatic scenes accompanied with loud powerful music.
“Rabbit Hole” is an exemplary and stunning film. From the cast’s authentic performances to the incredibly emotional story, the film is a gem. Mitchell’s devotion to the characters and story makes for one of the finest films of the year.