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4 ½ Stars: Should GRIEF And Mourning For The Loss of A Child Be An Everlasting Burden?

  • Dec 27, 2010
Rating:
+4
A parents’ worst fear is when they outlive their children, worst even is when the child is taken at a very young age. I would imagine that such a tragedy would be almost unbearable. The play by David Lindsay-Abaire took on this premise and he adapts his tale to the big screen with director John Cameron Mitchell's help in 2010‘s “Rabbit Hole“. The Nicole Kidman produced film premiered in the Toronto film festival and has received a standing ovation. The film is a remarkable story that defines grief; how we as humans tend to cope with it, how it sometimes coincides with guilt and how we try to live with it. “Rabbit Hole” is a powerful film about a messy, tragic emotional reaction to the loss of a child.

Becca (Nicole Kidman, To Die For) and Howie (Aaron Eckart, The Dark Knight) is a young married couple reeling from a tragic misfortune and is learning to live life without their son. The two try different ways to deal with their grief, Howie tries group therapy with the sponsorship of a woman named Gabby (Sandra Oh) while Becca tries to keep her emotions bottled up and becomes rather antagonistic towards her family and friends that include her mother Nat (beautifully acted by Dianne Wiest) and her now pregnant sister (Tammy Blanchard). With their marriage crumbling, the two try to find different ways to cope with the guilt and the grief that they feel, while the young man somewhat responsible for the couple’s misfortune, Jason (Miles Teller) finds an escape from his shame and remorse by writing an elaborate comic book about parallel universes and family relationships.

                   Nicole Kidman as Becca and Aaron Eckhart as Howie in "Rabbit Hole."

                  Aaron Eckhart as Howie in "Rabbit Hole."

                 Nicole Kidman as Becca and Aaron Eckhart as Howie in "Rabbit Hole."

Grief. Each one of us have known this emotion at one time or another. Each one of us learn to live with it, while carrying its burden forevermore. “Rabbit Hole” defines grief and creates a compelling story about human reaction to an ungodly tragedy. The film goes into the depths of an emotional aftermath and how the eventual road to recovery may sometimes come from things unexpected; it may be about forgiveness or by remembrance, it may be channeling guilt through another emotion, but nonetheless “Rabbit Hole” is all about human reaction.

Director John Cameron Mitchell restrains his instincts to provoke, but rather he seems satisfied to analyze and define in this film. The last film I saw directed by him was the disheartening above-average arthouse drama about sexuality “Short Bus” and this time around, the director takes on a more human theme. It was fortunate that the film was scripted by the Abaire who had also written the source material; the film has a very sad premise and yet, it wasn’t over-wrought. The film retains a sense of restraint and should I say “refinement” as it goes into its emotions. The temptation to become melodramatic would be great, but the direction keeps the proceedings grounded and quite realistic. It keeps its head high amid the melodrama with a delicate balance, as the emotions are given definition by its characters through their many layers and personalities; what results is a narrative that is filled with affecting influence that exposes the overpowering tiers of grief and guilt.

                       Dianne Wiest as Nat in "Rabbit Hole."

                       Miles Teller as Jason and Nicole Kidman as Becca in "Rabbit Hole."

The writing and the dialogue is pretty well-done. They are simple and yet they define the complexities of each character. The most multifaceted and compelling of all is Becca and is marvelously played by Kidman. She is a strong woman who had a great career and has taken on the role of a housewife. Becca is the type who questions and asks why things are the way they are. She deals with her grief in her own way, almost as if she allows her emotions to take hold, things may fall apart. She keeps things at a distance and her reaction may be more about frustrations and anger than actually remembering. Kidman is just mesmeric as Becca, she says so much even without dialogue, she is fantastic as she expresses vexation and denial. Howie is the type who’d like to move on and hold on to memories. It was so touching to see Howie watch his son’s videos and at the same time, he considers having another child. It is moving on and never forgetting, and this brings about more emotions from Becca who begins to think that the world has moved on without her and she meets this with disgust and perhaps a feeling of betrayal.

It was also nice that the film retained a semblance of humor amid all its depressing themes. These are helped along by the supporting cast led by Dianne Wiest. She is just phenomenal as the mother who tries to ease her daughter’s grief as she tries to relate to how she felt. Their exchanges were both heart-wrenching as well darkly humorous as Becca stands turned off by her comparisons of her son and her brother who died at 30 due to drug overdose. Sandra Oh plays a woman who also has issues dealing with grief and this led to her separation. The scenes with her and Howie doing marijuana was just well played into its plot. There was a moment that I thought things were going to become cliché in regards to their relationship but I was quite taken as to how it became a test of integrity that wins over the trappings/lure of loneliness and confusion.

                    Sandra Oh as Gaby and Aaron Eckhart as Howie in "Rabbit Hole."

                    Nicole Kidman as Becca and Tammy Blanchard as Izzy in "Rabbit Hole."

“Rabbit Hole” is a pretty grim film and I would be lying if I said it was a pessimistic cinematic experience. The direction by Mitchell and the writing by Lindsay-Abaire goes above its call to preserve its humanity while bringing forth a rather moving piece about dealing with grief and guilt. It sidesteps the conventions of a tear-jerker and instead goes forth with sublime human responses and scientific probabilities as Becca and Jaso discuss the possibility of another universe where everything is just “honkey-dorey“. The two dream of a perfect world without anguish and hostilities.

The film is just a fantastic display of balance and allows the characters to drive the story and emotions rather than the other way around. It is hauntingly impressive in a way it avoids the cliché of melodrama and comes forth with an engaging film with an artistic manner that rounds up its heartbreaking premise. “Rabbit Hole” just feels very real as we are left to question if there is hope for happiness after a tragedy or is grief something everlasting?

Highly Recommended! [4 ½ Out of 5 Stars]
 
Poster art for "Rabbit Hole." Teaser Poster art for "Rabbit Hole."

4 ½ Stars: Is GRIEF And Mourning For One's Child An Everlasting Burden? 4 ½ Stars: Is GRIEF And Mourning For One's Child An Everlasting Burden?

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January 14, 2011
Excellent review. I just finished seeing this not too long ago I had heard this film was painful to watch but after viewing I now know that this is one of those rare films that surpasses it source material and literally becomes almost real life. This is probably one of 2010's most understated films a true gem amongst the crap that year brought. This film really cuts deep.
January 14, 2011
Glad you liked it too, my friend. This was simple and yet so brilliant. I was pleasantly surprised, I was just happy that 2010 caught up with some really good films in its last two months. 2010 was a less than stellar year for films. I hope to see you review this one...
 
January 02, 2011
Again Woo, wonderful insight into the film. I don't know if I would want to see this one, only because I am a Mom and sometimes movies with too much emotion, especially grief over the loss of a child, easily gets me down. Great review, but I think I'll skip this one!
January 02, 2011
I understand. This film is affecting. I know Aerin will see it only when she is prepared for such bleak themes. :)
January 02, 2011
I agree with Aerin - us emotional ladies have to be in the mood for such things LOL I am not the biggest Kidman fan either, but this one does sound like she may be good in it, but too emotional for me sweets.
January 03, 2011
It is a Mama thang ain't it? You like depressing movies? What is your favorite one Aerin?
January 03, 2011
I like deep and depressing films; they are the most brilliant when done right. But I've doen so much revies on them that I occasionally need a change of pace. Here's a more inspiring movie that I've reviewed: http://lunch.com/t/6028, just so you two won't think I am too dark. LOL!

My mom was the same way, she loved heavy familial dramas.  I'd like to know what are your favorites...
January 03, 2011
I really love deep films, but not too depressing because it sticks with me; I can't remember a depressing movie that I have seen right now, but deep ones that instill emotions are good for me unless it's about an animal (Sounder comes to mind) - that one still haunts me. I am waaayyy too sensitive when it comes to animals in movies. Geez, I can't even think of a deep one at this point that I can remember. Gotta think about that one.
January 03, 2011
Depressing movies when done right is just brilliant. There are so many that I can hardly remember one off the top of my head. Well, I did my last review for awhile a minute ago and then, I am going to work on a TOP 2010 Movie List...my toe-sies are tired. Too many movies so little time. Btw, thanks for the awesome review highlights!
January 03, 2011
Yes, give the toe-sies a much-needed rest....
January 03, 2011
my toe-sies are wriggling LOL!
January 03, 2011
Is that a good thing? Maybe they need to be calmed down a bit? LOL Maybe you should put some Vicks on the toe-sies too!!
January 03, 2011
I did. I have the uncanny ability to put my feet on my face LOL!
 
December 31, 2010
Great review! This one clearly got to you. I fully agree that Mitchell took a very different approach to direction this time around but I'm not sure why you call Shortbus an abortion drama. I don't actually recall there being an abortion in the film. It was an experimentally workshopped and mostly improvised film about sexuality. It was uneven but a valiant effort. Have you seen his first film, Hedwig and the Angry Inch? That is a must-see. Absolutely hilarious and one of the best rock musicals ever!
December 31, 2010
whoops! Thanks for the catch, Joseph. I need to de-activate my auto-speller, sometimes it goes ahead of me and I didn't catch it this time, (meant to type something else but I can't remember now) among some other typos. I need an editor LOL! Yes, "Shortbus" was about sexuality, I liked it in some ways. I haven't seen "Hedwig and Angry Inch" yet. I will get right on it. I am not big on musicals but you said "rock musical" so I think I'll like it. Thanks for the read.
December 31, 2010
Yeah, Hedwig is not your typical musical .. in the least. One of my Top 100 films of all time! And I admire Shortbus more for its methods than its execution.
December 31, 2010
I think Shortbus was bold, but the direction was a little unpolished. I need to re-watch that to review it one of these days. Hedwig is one of your top 100? whoa. Ok, now I am interested. So, Blue Valentine was good? I am waiting on your take. One already had given it an almost perfect score here.
December 31, 2010
Blue Valentine is up now. I found it to be brave but trying to get through at times.
December 31, 2010
Just read it. I am still intrigued by it. Great review!
 
December 29, 2010
I've never heard of this movie! I'll be sure to check it out. Sounds captivating!

In the case of The Greatest, the child is almost an adult and the family was on the verge of splitting up. The girl who was pregnant was introduced into their lives unexpectedly and partly also because she was "instrumental" in the crash. It deals with not only grief but acceptance of someone deemed to be seen as having gotten their son killed to begin with. It's very interesting! You must watch it!
December 29, 2010
I think you'll like this one, Sharrie. I will also check out "The Greatest" since I do like stories that hit closer to home. I think "Rabbit Hole" may be simpler but more powerful in the portrayal of grief while "Greatest" may have a more intricate story to it. Thanks for the read and I will see if I can find that movie! =)
 
December 28, 2010
Sounds like a really good film, I can tell my grandmother would have a hard time with this film since she lost her daughter last year [my mom]. Also when you wrote "The scenes with her and Howie doing marijuana", I went straight to that scene in "Brothers" in which something exactly like that happened. GREAT review WP, I will be checking this out.
December 29, 2010
I actually thought about you when I saw this film. That must've been tough to your grandma. Thanks for the read once again, man! Oh, you should check out my foolish quick tips, I may as well have fun with it LOL!
 
December 27, 2010
Awesome job. You get extra props from me for making me actually want to see something with Nicole Kidman in it. LOL!
December 27, 2010
I was surprised about the movie myself, I wasn't expecting a brilliantly simple movie that focused on emotional reactions, I thought it would be a cliched drama . I wasn't particularly happy with her recent movies either, but she did an excellent job with this. She also co-produced it.
December 27, 2010
oh, I would like to add that Kidman doesn't look glamorous (no make up at times) at all in this movie--yeah, she is beautiful but she appeared more real and believable as a mother in grief.
January 01, 2011
Hey, you like depressing films right? check this out: http://lunch.com/t/5zu8
 
December 27, 2010
Fantastic review, Mr. William. Believe it or not I knew absolutely nothing about this one prior to your critique. I have to say that Nicole Kidman has impressed me multiple times throughout the years with her delivery in various dramas/ mind teasers. This here sounds like an incredible piece of film making, thanks for the link. Will definitely be looking into this one.
December 27, 2010
Kidman ruled in this film, You can just feel her pain and misery. I think she should be nominated for best actress. This was a simple yet very real slice of human drama. Thanks, Jason!
January 01, 2011
Hey, Jason, I may have found a more compelling story about grief with this one: http://lunch.com/t/5zu8. It is about the 1976 earthquake that claimed the lives of 240,000 people.
 
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Caption
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Rabbit Hole is a 2010 drama film starring Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart. David Lindsay-Abaire adapted his 2005 play of the same name, and John Cameron Mitchell directed. Kidman produced the project via her production company, Blossom Films. The film premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival in September. Lionsgate will distribute the film.

It will receive a limited US theatrical release on 17 December 2010 and expand nationwide on 14 January 2011.

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Tags

Movies, Drama Movies, Drama, Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, David Lindsayabaire, Dianne West

Details

Genre: Drama
Release Date: 27 October 2010 (France)
Screen Writer: David Lindsay-Abaire
Studio: Olympus Pictures, Blossom Films, Odd Lot Entertainment
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