Every so often, there is a film that supersedes the limitations of film. I know, I know, as a film kid I should never say that film has its faults, but the fact of the matter is that, especially in these uncertain economic times, film has lost its way. It has given in to the pressure of a purely visual medium. Don’t get me wrong, I love explosions and special effects as much as the next guy, but it’s important to remember that there’s more to film than what you see.
Rabbit Hole does an excellent job of creating an intense emotional experience through the visual, but never neglecting its emotional roots. One of the most effective ways that it manages to do this is in what it chooses to show. Much of the film is centered on the aftermath after Becca and Howie’s son is hit by a car and killed. As such, the pain is much more muted in its depiction, as opposed to an over-the-top and melodramatic snapshot of a couple’s loss. There’s such beauty and heartbreak in the day to day for this couple.
John Cameron Mitchell, known for his previous outlandish directorial efforts like Hedwig and the Angry Inch as well as Shortbus, manages to tap into something real with this film and it shows in every one of his choices. We see simple household tasks such as laundry and cleaning up performed with such gravity. Mitchell is able to capture the tragedy of the mundane and without ever asking, forces the audience to answer the question, how do we pretend that life goes on when it feels like nothing will ever be the same? Mitchell is just as much to thank for this as Kidman is, who delivers a startling performance.
For most people who may have heard about Rabbit Hole, much of the attention has been focused on Kidman’s performance, which is truly magnificent. However, Kidman isn’t the only one at work in this film. Eckhart is just as deserving of recognition for his role as the husband who’s simply too exhausted to continue grieving. The way that Eckhart and Kidman play off of one another is just one of the many dazzling elements at work in this film. Dianne Wiest shows a similar talent for grieving as Becca’s mother who lost a son of her own in the past. However, these are the people credited on the poster or in the trailer. These are the people you’ve heard of.
One of the most impressive performances is by Miles Teller, who plays the young man who was driving the car that hit Becca and Howie’s son. There’s such an indescribable quality in his delivery. It feels completely stripped. No artistry to his words. He simply says what he means, which brings an honesty or sincerity to his performance. Although he is clearly a supporting character, it is his relationship with Becca that drives the genuine emotional core of the film. As the two help each other come to terms with how life has changed, the audience begins to see some glimmer of hope. There’s nothing definitive or concrete about the film’s conclusion, but that’s what Rabbit Hole suggests, that there is some sort of light at the end of the tunnel, that even though things will never be the same, we are not condemned to live in the past.
In the end, Rabbit Hole is a film about coming to terms with life’s constant unpredictability. More than it is about life and death or even coming to terms with loss, Rabbit Hole is a film that focuses on the relationships we form along the way. With a mundane beauty about it, John Cameron Mitchell captures an idyllic existence shattered by an unforgettable loss. However, it is with the aid of a truly remarkable cast that breathes life into Rabbit Hole that the film transcends the visual medium into something more visceral, something felt.