“Rabbit Hole”, in a literary nod
to “Alice In Wonderland,” refers to the openings in a parallel universe,
where, theoretically, in the boundless infinity of space and time, there are
bound to be people exactly like us, and maybe there are even happier than we
Nicole Kidman plays Becca, the woman
who’s just lost her young son. He
was four years old. He ran out
on the street to chase his dog, and didn’t see the car coming. It was
nobody’s fault, of course, but that doesn’t prevent her from feeling
guilty---and grief, as we all know, is the 3,000-pound gorilla that throws
Becca grieves continually, but not
necessarily in the way everyone else seems to expect.
She furiously plants flowers, and becomes irrationally heartbroken
when a well-meaning visiting neighbor accidentally steps on a budding bloom.
Yes, the screenplay is rife with symbolism, as it was originally a
play, totally dependent on considered dialogue and good, old-fashioned
character development. Becca
evolves, but not necessarily in a straight progression.
She begins to get rid of her son’s toys and clothes, but finds that
her husband, Howie (Aaron Eckhart) is not yet ready for that.
He complains that she’s trying to rid the house of all evidence of
their son. She counters that
she sees him everywhere, every day, and doesn’t need his “stuff” to be
reminded. Late at night, he
looks in his movie camera at old videos, immersing himself in happier times.
She tells him she thinks it’s time they put the house up for sale,
because it’s filled with too many haunting memories.
They’ve given away the errant dog, but he’s now saying he misses
the dog, despite the fact that he was a nuisance and a bother.
They’re both desperately trying to “move on,” but he fears
she’s eradicating all traces of their precious boy---not even a
photograph---and she fears that he wants to leave everything as it was that
fateful day, somehow constructing an everlasting shrine.
He tries putting on some Al Green music and giving her a backrub,
hoping it would be a prelude to some healing physical intimacy.
She says she’s just not ready.
He whines, “But it’s been eight months!”
She replies, “Are you trying to make me have sex with you when I
don’t want to?”
And so it goes.
Their grieving overwhelms both of them, and yet they are responding
differently, as people will, and finding it difficult to re-connect after
such a tsunami of a heartbreak. He
encourages them to go to a group meeting of other grieving parents, and they
sit and listen quietly to others complaining about their emotional pain. She
has rarely said anything in the group, but can’t help herself when some
hand-holding couple piously proclaims that God needed their angel more than
they did. Becca rebuts,
“What, God couldn’t have just made another angel?”
Later, in a conversation with her mother, Nat (Dianne Weist) we learn
that Becca doesn’t have any use for religion, or the pious twits who mouth
nonsensical platitudes in its name. Her
mother says her faith helped her when she lost her son, but Becca rebuts
that her brother was a 31-year-old junkie who died of a drug overdose, and
don’t you dare compare the two, and her mother replies quietly, with an
authoritative sadness, “He was still my son.”
Becca quits the grief group, but finds
herself wanting to make contact with the teenage boy, Jason (Miles Teller)
who accidentally ran over her son. Jason,
at first startled, is actually relieved to have a chance to talk about it.
But Becca doesn’t tell Howie about these encounters, just as Howie
doesn’t tell Becca that when he went back to the grief group by himself,
he started connecting with Gaby (Sandra Oh), sharing a joint in the parking
lot and enjoying acting silly for no reason at all.
It takes us where we don’t want to go, and shakes us to our core,
and causes us to do things we couldn’t otherwise imagine ourselves doing.
But in the end, it is about working through it, any way you can.
And somehow rebuilding, despite it all, according to nobody’s
instincts but your own.
Nicole Kidman is fantastic in a
depressing role, and so is Aaron Eckhart.
The real grief groups ought to view this one together, and find both
a little comfort, and perhaps, some welcome self-parody.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace