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The Reality of Grief

  • Dec 18, 2010
Grief is an individual process. There is no one way to experience it. It’s not a scheduled allotment of time; it could begin directly after a tragedy, but then again, it could begin five years later, or ten, and it’s going to last for as long as it’s going to last. Some people have the coping skills to move on. Others remain in despair for the rest of their lives. Is the former the right way to go about it? I don’t know. Coping skills could refer to anything. If one person finds solace in friends, family, or faith, another person invariably takes comfort in an emotional vacuum of his or her own creation. They may plunge into work or distract themselves endlessly with personal projects. They may even abandon their lives altogether and then delude themselves into believing that nothing bad ever happened.
“Rabbit Hole,” an adaptation of David Lindsay-Abaire’s Pulitzer Prize winning play, is about the different ways people experience grief. It doesn’t coerce the audience into accepting a preconceived notion of loss and mourning. It presents the characters as they are, and never once are judgments made about them. Rather than address the audience in conventional absolutes of misery or hope, it instead sends the message that, regardless of what hand you’ve been dealt, life comes with no guarantees. It’s all about living one day at a time; it’s pointless to dwell on what might happen tomorrow or the next day or a decade from now. It’s not the best solution, but it’s the only solution there is. It’s reality.
The film centers on Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie (Aaron Eckhart), whose four-year-old son, Danny, was killed after being struck by a car. A lesser film would have opened on a note of unremitting bliss, mom and dad happily caring for their young son in their suburban New York neighborhood; we would then have to endure the soppy melodrama of both the accident and the funeral, which would no doubt be held on a rainy day and feature lots of close-ups of Becca’s tear-stained face. But this isn’t a lesser film. The story begins eight months after the accident. There’s no graveyard. There’s no memorial site. It’s just Becca and Howie, who have since settled into a functioning but incredibly strained routine.
They’re not on the same page when it comes to their son’s death. Becca, while seemingly sensible and conscientious, is not allowing herself to feel and is subconsciously trying to erase all physical evidence that her son existed. That isn’t easy in the house of a four-year-old; there are dozens of school paintings, a closet full of clothes, a completely furnished room stuffed with toys, and fingerprints on cabinets and doors. Even the family dog was too much for her to handle, for it played a part in her son’s death. Howie is not the kind of person who wants his son’s life erased. He’s especially fond of a video stored on his cell phone – presumably the last footage of him ever shot. Howie is ready to rekindle a physical relationship. Becca is not. Howie takes Becca to group therapy sessions with other parents who have lost children. Becca is not at all interested in what they have to say and sees no point in participating.
Becca’s sister, the irresponsible Izzy (Tammy Blanchard), is pregnant and often the target of Becca’s resentment. Their mother, Nat (Dianne Wiest), tries to be the voice of reason but fails to understand why her daughter refuses to let anyone comfort her. She too has been down that long, dark road of grief, but every time she tries to explain where she’s coming from, Becca refuses to listen, believing that the comparison is cruel and unfair.
Howie seeks out a kindred spirit and finds one in Gabby (Sandra Oh), who has been attending the group therapy sessions for the past eight years. Becca, in turn, forms a very unlikely friendship with Jason (Miles Teller), a high school student who was driving the car that killed her son. He’s far from a sadistic monster. He’s consumed with guilt. His coping mechanism is a comic book he’s writing and illustrating on his own, one in which multiple universes and time/space portals called rabbit holes advance the plot.
Of all the films I’ve seen this year, none have been as believable, as powerful, or as resonant as “Rabbit Hole.” It’s brilliant in that it never tries to tell us what to think or how to feel. It doesn’t make assertions about who’s right and who’s wrong. It presents people as they actually are in a grieving state; whichever side we choose – and naturally, we will choose – is dependent not on the filmmaker’s motives, but solely on what we personally bring to the film. The performances are amongst the most compelling of any recently given. A movie this good deserves more than a place on a critic’s top ten list. It also deserves special attention from audiences, for as of now, they’re unlikely to come across one with a better understanding of human nature. This is one of the year’s best films.

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January 02, 2011
Wonderful review!!
December 18, 2010
I need to see this. excellent review!
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review by . January 31, 2011
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Quick Tip by . April 05, 2011
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About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #5
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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About this movie


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


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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