Sunday, April 14, 2013

Film Favorites: Rabbit Hole

Rabbit Hole is a beautiful movie* about grief and recovery. Simple but deep, poignant yet sometimes funny, it is the story of a couple (played by Aaron Eckhart and Nicole Kidman) grieving the loss of their young son. His death was an accident--there is no one to blame--but that does little to assuage anyone's pain.

This is serious subject matter and the deliberation of the filmmakers shows up in the detail: colors, lighting, clothing, score. The filming and acting are gentle, yet so honest that we feel the rawness of the emotional wounds each individual is struggling to survive: Becca, Howie, Becca's mother, and Jason (the teenage car driver). Becca and Howie have a strong marriage and seek recovery together, but inevitably their paths diverge as they heal at different rates, in different ways, with different needs. This inevitably stresses their relationship, and us the viewers who are rooting for their survival.

Rabbit Hole voices questions, rather than offering answers. It observes and portrays the human experience, reserving judgment. While Becca's mom finds some comfort in the church, her daughter is exasperated by well-meaning friends telling her that "God wanted another angel." In many ways, this awkward scene with their grief recovery support group reminded me of sitting in church.

But the film is ultimately hopeful. Becca and Howie endure the crisis. By the end of the movie, our own wounds even feel more "bound up" as we watch them, together, step tentatively toward the light again. The sorrow is still there, but as Becca's mom confides, "At some point, it becomes bearable. It turns into something that you can crawl out from under and... carry around like a brick in your pocket."

*A year after we saw  the movie, we had the chance to see the original stage version. We wondered how it would compare, since we already knew the story. The play was extremely moving. The narrowed setting and smaller cast really put the dialogue into focus. Definitely go if you get the chance.

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