Editor’s note: This review was originally published on September 15, 2010 at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Losing a loved one to death is the hardest situation we will ever have to face. Death is the only certain thing in life, as morbid as it is to say. But, more than that, no parent should ever have to bury any of their children; it’s the children who are supposed to bury the parent. Life doesn’t always work out that way, and that’s our situation in John Cameron Mitchell’s (HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH) new film, RABBIT HOLE.
HEADS UP - MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD.
Based on the play of the same name, RABBIT HOLE follows a married couple, the Corbetts (Aaron Eckhart and Nicole Kidman), who have lost their two year old son eight months prior to the film’s start. We don’t know how - at first. The pain is still fresh and they’re trying their best to continue life without him. Becca (Kidman) no longer works and occupies her days planting flowers. She’s still angry at the world (and, most notably, the Spirit in the sky), and her emotional and mental stability is slowly shutting down. It’s then that she unexpectedly runs into the teenager responsible for her child’s death.
For a while, we have zero clue who this boy is and why she’s so intrigued by him. Mitchell toys with us, giving our inquiring minds that curious itch to quickly find out who this boy is - and who he is to Becca. They begin meeting regularly at a park, sitting on a bench, just talking. We find out that the the death of the the Corbetts’ son was an accident - 100% pure bad luck. These are are some of the best scenes in the film. There’s minimal talking, with the occasional exchange of tears. Becca’s anger seems to fade away when she’s with him. She sees life in this boy and understands his regret. Bravo to Mitchell for making this strange situation so beautiful.
Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart sure know how to show the pain and suffering two parents would endure over a child’s death. When they’re arguing and screaming at one another, you’ll want to exit theatre - it’s that emotionally draining. But this is the goal of our two leads - to engage us and involve us so fully, we feel the need to react immediately. If that doesn’t scream Oscar bait, I’m not sure what does. Watching Howie (Eckhart) witness his wife dwindle away, lost to her seemingly incurable sadness as he tries to resurrect her happiness, is simply heartbreaking.
RABBIT HOLE isn’t easy to watch. In fact, I can assure you that bringing Kleenex to your screening would be a very good idea. Its heavy theme is supposed to take you on a tear-streaming journey, and it sure will. In a tale of tragic loss, unexpected friendships, and finding happiness in whatever that may be, RABBIT HOLE scores big.