“Does it ever go away?” whispers Becca (Nicole Kidman) towards the end of John Cameron Mitchell’s wrenching, enriching testimony on grief. Those who’ve ever lost a loved one will feel her pain. Cocooned in a house groaning with memories, Becca’s shell-shocked, exposed, drifting – her young son has just died in a road accident, leaving her and husband Howie (Aaron Eckhart) alone to pick up the pieces. Each cope differently – Becca goes inward, her flinty interactions concealing deep ache. Howie goes outward, searching, hoping.
If all this sounds like an A-list episode of Hollyoaks, it isn’t. Helmed by Shortbus and Hedwig director Mitchell, Rabbit Hole represents a U-turn in form for the openly gay filmmaker. Reigning in the explicit sex and power wigs, Mitchell directs deftly, quietly, creeping into the lives of our pugnacious couple and watching without judgement.
All the best indie buzz words apply: restrained, poignant, moving. But Rabbit Hole isn’t content to be just another indie film with an A-class cast and Big Issues. As it tracks Becca’s journey, it wraps her brittle experiences in mordant wit, ensuring that what could be a drab, maudlin slog is as vibrant as the flowers over which Becca so affectionately fawns.
Vitally, Rabbit Hole’s musings never ring false. Beautifully adapted by David Lindsay-Abaire from his own stageplay, Kidman rises to the demands of his vivid script, leading an impeccable cast that betrays no weak links. Eckhart exudes soul and Sandra Oh elicits sniggers, while Oscar winner Dianne Wiest as Becca’s mother is nothing short of miraculous – both kind and knowing. Amidst them all, Kidman remains coarse, frail and sincere in her finest turn since The Hours. Rabbit Hole is emotional, raw stuff managed with warmth and poise, and we wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up on the Academy Awards short list. 4/5
Via Out In The City