Nicole Kidman delivers a searing performance as a mother struggling to come to terms with the death of her four-year-old son in Rabbit Hole. It’s a stunning performance that seizes your attention, and Kidman achieves this without manipulating you to shed tears for her.

A brutally honest portrait of a marriage straining under the weight of grief, Rabbit Hole stars Kidman and Aaron Eckhart as Becca and Howie, who’re finding it increasingly difficult to communicate with each other even eight months after that terrible accident. Looking for the understanding they cannot find at home, both embark upon clandestine relationships with others. While Howie is drawn to another grieving parent he meets at group therapy, Becca forms a strange bond with the teenager responsible for knocking down her son with his car.

It’s a deeply affecting drama, elevated by the unpredictable, original writing, and by the performances of its leads. The film works so well because the characters aren’t haloed saints: they’re real, genuine people who’re angry and hurt and say horrible things. In one of the film’s most biting scenes, Becca launches a scathing attack on a fellow member of her support group who suggests it was God wanting another angel that meant her child had to die. “He’s God. Why didn’t he just make an angel?” Becca roars, dismissing that ridiculous explanation.

The fraught relationship between Becca and her mother (played by Dianne Wiest) also lends this film some of its fiercest moments, including a scene in which Becca finally loses it after her mother repeatedly ties her daughter’s loss to the death of her own son, who was 30 when he died of drug addiction. A more delicate scene between the two is one in which Becca’s mother makes the difficult admission that the pain of losing a child never goes away entirely.

Rabbit Hole packs a hard punch, but never wallows in sorrow or pity. It’s a film that takes a piece out of you. I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for Rabbit Hole. Watch it for some fine performances, and for its daring honesty.

 

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