We Feel Your Pain
Rabbit Hole might be considered a dedication to anyone who has ever lost a child; it sympathizes without being condescending, respects the struggle that is the process of grieving and healing without giving way to wallowing or histrionics. It is, in a word, tasteful. I felt the screenplay was written in a way to give the grieving couple Becca and Howie (Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart) just enough leeway not to feel constrained, but otherwise it plays things safe in trying to tell a very accessible story.
When we join the couple, their 4-year-old son has already been gone for eight months; they are in that awkward phase of coping where the initial shock has worn off. Their lives are in positions to move on, and yet they can't admit how deeply the tragedy still affects them. Each of them copes in a different way, too -- Becca acknowledges the weight on her emotions and tries to slowly remove reminders and mementos of her son, while Howie appears outwardly ready to move forward but is actually having a terrible time letting go.
The characters are each allowed to stretch by having incidentally therapeutic interactions with certain people -- Becca befriends the guilt-ridden teenager (Miles Teller) whose car was involved in the accident, while Howie spends time with a woman (Sandra Oh) from their support group. There is also give-and-take with Becca's mother (Dianne Wiest) and new emotional challenges to face in the form of Becca's newly pregnant sister (Tammy Blanchard). This pretty much covers all the bases. Rabbit Hole goes to places you'd expect it to go and never quite goes to where you wouldn't want it to. Director John Cameron Mitchell handles everything respectfully, realistically, and even with gentle doses of humor, allowing only a few blow-ups, thus ensuring the weighty material never feels burdensome.
I'm not sure this movie says anything newly instructive about the grieving/healing process, nor do I believe it wants to. Instead, the film acknowledges the uniquely awful space that comprises reality for anyone who has suffered as Becca and Howie have, and, in so doing, suggests that acknowledgment itself provides some of the strongest support.
(Released by Lionsgate and rated "PG-13" for mature thematic material, some drug use and language.)
Review also posted at www.windowtothemovies.com.