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(Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was for an elegy with some kind of unorthodox focus. I don’t know about unusual, but a film about loss seemed a good fit for a mournful elegy.)

 

The boy who died filled a hole, you know,
Before he lost his chance to grow,
Before the accident defined
And left the hole behind.

Where he’d have been, there’s no one there
To fill his kindergarten chair,
To chase the dog or yet annoy
His parents with a toy.

Where he’d have been, his parents frame
And argue who is more to blame.
The empty frame can comfort bring
Or aggravate the sting.

His loss unravels and unrolls
A family into separate souls,
Two wondering if they can fill
The name of parent still.

While life goes on, the hole will stay,
Though cloaked in time till Judgment Day.
To build from it is not a sin,
The hole where he’d have been.
__________________

MPAA rating: PG-13

Based on a play by David Lindsay-Abaire, Rabbit Hole is a deeply affecting portrait of realistic familial grief, much in the vein of Ordinary People and Manchester By the Sea, though closer in appeal to the former. It’s not so much about tragedy as how people cope with it and tackles the subject in an intimate way that draws phenomenal performances from its main actors, most notably Aaron Eckhart and Oscar nominee Nicole Kidman as parents grieving the death of their little boy.

Months after their son Danny is killed by a car, Becca (Kidman) and Howie Corbett (Eckhart) attend group therapy sessions and go about life as normal, but life is not the same. With every reminder of Danny, the two react in opposite ways: Howie values every smudge and picture made by his son, while Becca wants to give away his clothes and even sell the house to escape his ever-present memory. Likewise, they seek out comfort in different people, whether a sympathetic acquaintance who understands grief (Sandra Oh) or the very person responsible for Danny’s death (Miles Teller). Through it all, the Corbetts’ everyday life is like a scab covering the wound, quick to be torn off at any mention of Danny, which leads to some uncomfortable and heart-rending emotional fireworks. Nicole Kidman received the lion’s share of the praise, including an Oscar nomination, but I thought Eckhart was just as good, matching the high quality of all the performances.

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Rabbit Hole brings home how elusive comfort can be in the wake of an unspeakable grief and how it may be found in unexpected places, perhaps a comic book, a dog, or a conversation that once provoked resentment. I would have liked Becca to see the value in the religious solace she denounces at first, but her mother Nat (Dianne Wiest) mentions the support of her church, and it’s something of an irony that Becca does find some comfort in a different perception of the supernatural. Eckhart and Kidman deliver nuance and pain in their award-worthy roles and, with the rest of the excellent cast, evoke so many facets of the grieving process, making Rabbit Hole a heartbreaking watch that nevertheless doesn’t lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel.

Best line: (Becca) “Does it ever go away?”
(Nat) “No, I don’t think it does. Not for me, it hasn’t – has gone on for eleven years. But it changes, though.”
(Becca) “How?”
(Nat) “I don’t know… the weight of it, I guess. At some point, it becomes bearable. It turns into something that you can crawl out from under and… carry around like a brick in your pocket. And you… you even forget it, for a while. But then you reach in for whatever reason, and – there it is. Oh, right, that. Which could be awful – not all the time. It’s kinda… not that you like it exactly, but it’s what you’ve got instead of your son. So, you carry it around. And uh… it doesn’t go away. Which is…”
(Becca) “Which is what?”
(Nat) “Fine, actually.”

 

Rank: List-Worthy (tied with Ordinary People)

 

© 2017 S.G. Liput
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