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4 February 2011

Bothered and Bewildered

Rabbit Hole wasn't the most cheerful of films for a Friday night. Obviously. After several weeks of being sold out way in advance for its showings of The King's Speech and Black Swan, the Everyman on Baker Street was pretty quiet and mainly populated by women. I'm not always a fan of Nicole Kidman but I thought I ought to see Rabbit Hole--about the only film with at least one major Oscar nomination that I hadn't seen--before I pick my own favourites from each category. Also Nicole Kidman's character is called Becca, which pleases me (Beccas are becoming as common as Beckys in films these days, what with The Good Wife and Make It, Or Break It).

The Becca in question is married to Howie (Aaron Eckhart) and they are in the process of dealing with the death of their four-year-old son Danny some eight months earlier. At first it seems like Howie is dealing much better than his wife: he is keen to go group therapy and he goes out to meet friends and at least act like he has a life. Becca, meanwhile, just mopes, stares into space, does some gardening and picks fights with her family. She doesn't want Howie being close to her or getting intimate and she definitely doesn't want him to bring up the idea of having another child. Their arrangement isn't working very well as Becca becomes increasingly cold and passive while Howie's frustration mounts. It doesn't help that Becca's flaky little sister has just got pregnant or that her mother, who also lost a son, keeps trying to offer "helpful" advice.

Eventually, Becca quits group therapy and she and Howie try to deal with things separately. For Becca, this means stalking school buses; ambushing Jason, the teenager who accidentally ran over their son; chatting to him; and admiring his beautifully drawn comic book, The Rabbit Hole, in which a boy tries to search for his scientist father in an assortment of parallel universes via a series of rabbit holes. Howie, meanwhile, bunks off group therapy with a fellow group member, Gaby, to smoke pot and, briefly at least, contemplate leaving the grief-fest that is his home and starting afresh.

It's a short film at just 90 minutes and nothing really happens. The acting is very good, particularly from Eckhart; Kidman's performance is strong too but Eckhart is much more subtle. Somehow, though, something was missing. I didn't feel very moved, for one thing, perhaps because the raw pain of loss had disintegrated, eight months on, into something deeper and more aching. It wasn't to do with the ending, either, as I felt that was convincing and worked well. On checking IMDb, I saw that the film was adapted from a play and this might explain the nagging void I felt at the end; I could definitely see it working as a play a lot better.

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