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Grief Movingly Portrayed in Rabbit Hole

  • Christa Banister Contributing Writer
  • Updated May 06, 2013
Grief Movingly Portrayed in <i>Rabbit Hole</i>

DVD Release Date: April 19, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: December 17, 2010 (limited)
Rating: PG-13 (for mature thematic material, some drug use and language)
Genre: Drama
Run Time: 91 min.
Director: John Cameron Mitchell
Actors: Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Dianne Wiest, Miles Teller, Tammy Blanchard, Sandra Oh, Jon Tenney

Walking with people through the most unimaginable of tragedies—like the accidental death of a child—is certainly one of life's most challenging realities. After all, no matter how much you want to be there for someone, you can't help but feeling a little powerless in the process. Aside from providing a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on and prayerful support, there's really not much more you can do, and that's absolutely devastating.

And trust me, it's not any easier watching it all play out with fictional characters on the big screen either, which I suppose is a tribute to just how good Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart are at conveying these complex emotions in Rabbit Hole.

For anyone who's willing to accompany Howie (Eckhart) and Becca (Kidman) on the difficult journey, however, there are many unexpected rewards. Not only is Rabbit Hole an unflinchingly honest portrayal of how people respond to grief so differently, but it also serves as an important reminder that pat answers, particularly those well-meaning sentiments like "Well at least he/she is in a better place" or "I'm sure this loss will somehow be used for God's glory, even if we can't understand it now," aren't the healing balm that most people are looking for, even if what's being suggested is true.

In fact, Becca nearly reaches her breaking point in the grief counseling session that Howie has dragged her to when one of the "professional wallowers" declares that "God had to take their child because he needed another angel." With those words practically still hanging in the air, Becca offers this zippy retort in response: Why didn't he just make one? I mean, He's God after all.

As you can probably imagine, Becca and Howie didn't stay long after that.

In stark contrast to her husband who still watches the home videos from when his family was happy and still intact, Becca is surprisingly unsentimental. For her, the best way to move on is to rid their home of all the things that remind her of her little boy, the fingerpaintings on the refrigerator, the tiny clothes hanging in his closet, the toys scattered around his room and if possible, talking about how things "used to be" as little as possible.

Naturally, the situation takes its toll on the couple's marriage. When Howie suggests physical intimacy, Becca is decidedly withdrawn too and can't believe he'd even suggest such a thing. Truth be told, there are several junctures in the movie when you worry that Howie and Becca will became one of the harrowing statistics, namely a couple who decides to divorce after the death of a child, something that happens about 80 to 90 percent of the time, according to recent findings.

But as much as Becca pushes him away, Howie remains patient and fights for their relationship, even when the possibility for infidelity emerges with another grieving parent (Sandra Oh) from the therapy group he still attends without Becca. And that model of strength during such a difficult time is particularly encouraging.

Ultimately, the long and winding road toward healing, complete with the requisite highs and lows, plays out with sensitivity, humor and moments that are downright heartbreaking in Rabbit Hole. Yet despite the difficult subject matter, the script never resorts to sappy, oversimplified answers or the careful manipulation meant to get the audience's tears flowing. If anything, the point of watching these people suffer serves as a gentle statement that there's really no right—or wrong—way to cope with loss, but it is possible to pick up the pieces and start again, while keeping the memory of the dearly departed alive.

While certainly not the cheery escape that most people seek during the Christmas season, Rabbit Hole reflects the underlying sorrow that so many people face holiday after holiday. Sometimes "the most wonderful time of the year" isn't quite so wonderful at all, and thanks to winning performances from the leads, not to mention an engaging storyline that gets to the heart of the matter, Rabbit Hole displays those conflicted feelings, warts and all, in a winning way.


  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Social drinking, plus two of the film's characters turn to marijuana (they're showed smoking a bong) for a brief respite from grieving.
  • Language/Profanity:  A few instances where the Lord's name is taken in vain, one use of the "f" word and a couple of other crass word are used.
  • Sex/Nudity:  Becca and Howie's sex life (or lack thereof since the loss of their son) is discussed but never shown on-screen. At one point, adultery is briefly considered, but the character ultimately remains committed to his marriage.
  • Violence:  How Howie and Becca's son dies is described in a couple of scenes but is never shown in a graphic manner. Aside from some blurry imagery depicting what led to him being struck by a moving vehicle, the rest is pretty much left up to the viewer's imagination.


Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in Dallas, Texas, she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog

For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.