Rabbit Hole

Becca and Howie Corbett are a happily married couple, living an ideal life in suburban Yonkers. Their world is turned upside down, however, when their four-year old son is killed when he runs into the street in front of their house and is run over. Such situations are hard on marriages. Usually there is guilt and recrimination as both partners cast about looking to assign blame. But there is also often an incompatibility in the ways they choose to grieve.

Becca, played by Nicole Kidman finds herself approaching the person behind the wheel of the car, a high school kid named Jason, played by Miles Teller. Why Becca reaches out to him, even she can’t explain.  Perhaps she’s looking to replace the relationship she lost. Howie, played by Aaron Eckhart is outgoing and affable on the outside but has this lump of rage inside him that he needs to deal with. Neither seem to be able to comfort the other and they look for solace elsewhere. Both are drifting without knowing or caring where they’ll wind up. They eventually have to face some dangerous choices.

Rabbit Hole is a change of pace for the director John Cameron Mitchell, whose previous films were Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Short Bus, two very provocative and flamboyant projects. It’s probably a good thing for him to try his hand at a quiet domestic drama. Rabbit Hole is based on the play by David Lindsey-Abaire, who wrote the screenplay. What they have come up with is a remarkably subtle film about intelligent people who think about the choices facing them before they act. If you don’t pay attention you may think that nothing happens but it does. The action is all in the acting, where the internal conflict is played out.

The two leads handle this load brilliantly. Nicole Kidman captures Becca’s confusion at the guilt she feels and the intellectual knowledge that it wasn’t her fault. She can’t decide on an approach to her grief, much to the frustration of everyone around her, especially her husband. Aaron Eckhart’s Howie is seemingly under control, but events test him. When Jason shows up at their door, Howie shouts at him. But later he asks Becca if she’s told him that they don’t blame him for the accident. She asks if he wants to talk to Jason. Howie says no; he knows he can’t handle it. At one point they have an argument where both of them list the ways that the accident was their fault. But at the end Howie sums it up, “Dogs run into the street and four-year old boys chase them.” It was nobody’s fault and yet the attendant emotions need to be put somewhere.

The answer is that there is no answer, no one way to cope with something like this. As Becca’s mother, Nat, played by Diane Wiest, says, the grief never goes away but it does change over time into something you can live with. You just get on with life.

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