It’s a given that Academy Award-winner Nicole Kidman is one of the best actors out there. But in the new film, “Rabbit Hole,” she gives a career-defining performance as a mother whose soul has been shattered by the loss of her only son.
In a surprising yet brilliant casting move, director John Cameron Mitchell (“Hedwig and the Angry Inch”) chose Aaron Eckhart (“The Dark Knight”) to play Kidman’s husband. Their chemistry is sheer perfection. As the film opens, we learn that Becca (Kidman) and Howie (Eckhart) have tragically lost their child in an accident eight months ago. Never visually depicted, the 4-year old boy ran after his dog and was hit by a car. As Becca puts it to Howie, “Things aren’t nice anymore.”
The couple is drifting apart, unable to find common ground in their grieving. He forgives the dog. She gives it away. She forgives the teenaged driver, Jason (Miles Teller), and forges a secret bond with him. The overwhelming obstacle for Howie and Becca is that they can’t forgive themselves.
Mitchell never stoops to playing the blame game in this beautifully constructed film. The horror of losing a child easily could have come off as morose or maudlin, but Mitchell expertly dances around the touchy subject matter with soft shoes. He even manages to inject some pretty hilarious moments into the story. One involves Howie sharing a joint with a fellow griever (Sandra Oh) before attending group therapy.
Oscar winner Dianne Wiest (“Bullets Over Broadway”) is phenomenal in her role as Becca’s mother. The two share a common bond of both having lost a son. Becca resents her mother’s constant reference to her brother’s death being as devastating as her loss but eventually she comes to understand. In a wonderful scene together Kidman and Wiest discuss how grief will wane but never disappear.
The film’s title is a reference to Alice’s access into Wonderland. It’s also the title of a cathartic comic book that Jason writes and gives to Becca to read. “Rabbit Hole” is about where we turn for comfort and how it lies in the least likely of places.