DIR: John Cameron Mitchell • WRI: David Lindsay-Abaire • PRO: Nicole Kidman, Gigi Pritzker, Per Saari, Leslie Urdang, Dean Vanech • DOP: Frank G. DeMarco • ED: Joe Klotz • DES: Kalina Ivanov • CAST: Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart and Dianne Wiest
Following on from his first two audacious features in the niche of queer cinema, John Cameron Mitchell now enters relatively mainstream waters to bring us Rabbit Hole, adapted by David Lindsay-Abaire from his own Pulitzer Prize-winning play. It’s a quiet, contemplative film, brimming with sadness and humour, and led by a wonderful central performance.
Nicole Kidman returns to the theme that first brought her to international attention – that of a mother grieving the loss of a child, and the emotional aftermath that such a trauma entails. Of course in the two decades since Dead Calm was released, Kidman has explored of multitude roles and worked with some of the finest directors in the industry. She has gained such an authority on screen – yet somehow, here, she manages to strip away all of our preconceptions so that we are left with something as raw and natural as she was opposite Sam Neil at the age of 21. This is her most fully-rounded character and detailed performance in years – nimble, layered and completely magnetic.
Becca’s journey with her husband Howie (Aaron Eckhart), eight months after the tragic accident that killed their son, is beautifully captured by Cameron Mitchell’s lens. Despite the film’s stage origins, the story never feels too talky or confined, shots are simple yet beautifully composed, the editing and pace have a fluid rhythm. The couple’s facade of normalcy – making dinners, attending pious bereavement groups and keeping up appearances with friends and neighbours, begins to crack as the mementos of their son’s life disappear. Becca gives his clothes to goodwill and takes his paintings off the fridge, she accidentally deletes a video of him playing on a swing – causing a distraught reaction in Howie. The difference in the way this couple deals with the loss is compelling, and the friction between them palpable outside of the few explosive scenes.
Their disconnect becomes more and more apparent, and Eckhart plays it with a wounded humanity that’s really effective. Howie wishes they could ‘get back on track’ and perhaps try for another baby, something which Becca is not prepared to do. Instead he starts hanging out with Gabby, a woman from their bereavement group, played by the always reliable Sandra Oh. Meanwhile prickly moments between Becca and her irresponsible sister Izzy (Tammy Blanchard) are very well played and Dianne Wiest provides a lot of warmth and wisdom as Becca’s mother, delivering a beautiful speech about grief that is a defining moment in the film. Becca both yearns to escape the reminders of her grief and seeks closure and solace in her pursuit of Jason, the young man who accidentally ran over her son. This strand of the narrative, exploring the idea of parallel universes and fate, gives the story a unique edge, and Miles Teller is easily the stand out of the supporting cast.
Ultimately what gives this film its power is that Mitchell’s focus is always fiercely rooted in the reality of the situation, side-stepping the potential sentimentality of the subject – biting humour undercuts the sorrow and there certain moments of confrontation between Becca, Howie and Jason that strike quite a visceral chord. The scenes on the bench between Kidman and Teller contain moments of such purity and depth as to be heartbreaking – and to me, the final montage is one of the most sublime and emotionally resonant endings of the past decade. Despite sensitive subject matter and the quiet story – I can’t recommend the film enough, Kidman looks set for another Oscar® nomination after a long break from the Academy, and this one will definitely be deserved.
IFCO website for details)
Rabbit Hole is released on 4th February 2011