In a weaker year, Rabbit Hole would be dining on the spoils at headline awards ceremonies.
But having the misfortune to roll out against brutal competition leaves this intimate portrait of grieving marrieds in danger of getting lost in the shuffle.
Even the on-fire turns of its two stars, Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart, are likely to be also-rans in the face of performances that make sexier sells to awards voters. Which is a shame, because Rabbit Hole deserves some love: it’s one of the most moving, perceptive portraits of grief’s toll since Ordinary People (if the film does end up pulling big gongs, we’ll gladly eat our own woolly hat).
Kidman and Eckhart plumb the depths as Becca and Howie, a couple going through the motions of leafy suburban normalcy eight months after their toddler son was run over.
She’s on passive aggressive overload, mocking another grieving mother’s avowal that “God needed another angel” and weirdly befriending the pasty-faced teenager (Miles Teller) behind the wheel that day; he clings obsessively to the past, wigging out as Becca makes to remove all traces of their son.
Guiding these actions with graceful restraint is director John Cameron Mitchell, a long way from the avant-garde stylings of Shortbus and Hedwig And The Angry Inch. His visuals might be TV-movie drab but he keeps flagrant manipulation at bay. The teary outbursts, when they come, are as natural as they are heartbreaking.
Yes, Rabbit Hole’s a wrenching celluloid therapy session, but one leavened with unexpected humour and searing exchanges that ripple with insight.
Kidman is on blistering form, making Becca bravely unlikeable as she conceals her suffering behind a rigid façade.
In shining a light into people’s different coping mechanisms, this sob-fest delivers uplift and catharsis to go with its woe and waterworks.
Featuring resonant turns from Kidman and Eckhart, Rabbit Hole refuses to be another melodramatic wallow through the dead-child blues. The tears it jerks are well-earned.