Friday, June 17, 2011

Rabbit Hole: An uplifting film about death?

Rabbit Hole (drama)
Directed by John Cameron Mitchell
Starring Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart and Dianne Wiest

Lionsgate Films | 2010 | 91 min | Rated PG-13 | Released Apr 19, 2011

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Video resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1

English, Spanish

Single 50GB Blu-ray Disc

The Film 4.5/5

Here’s a film which made just $2.2 million at the box office, but Nicole Kidman received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. Are you one of the few who bothered to go and see it? If not, is it worth checking out on Blu-ray?

The subject matter is the likely reason for the film being largely ignored. The title doesn’t give away much either. This is not another live action version of Alice in Wonderland. Rabbit Hole is about one of the worst things that could happen to parents; it deals with the loss of a child. That doesn’t sound like a fun watch, does it?

The film completely surprised me and I thought it was superbly done.

We aren’t told at the outset that Becca (Kidman) and Howie (Eckhart) have suffered a loss. The writing respects the audience and lets us observe their actions. Becca turns down a dinner invitation from a neighbor and doesn’t seem too happy when she discovers her sister is pregnant. Howie views a video of a child on his phone and we soon find out that their 4-year-old boy died eight months previously.

Becca is reminded of her loss everywhere she looks. Some of Danny’s pictures are still on the fridge; his room looks like it hasn’t been touched and she can see his fingerprints around the house. His clothes are still in the wardrobe so she decides to give them away. After removing the pictures, she informs Howie that she thinks they should sell the house as it’s another constant reminder.

We learn that Danny was run over by a car when chasing his dog into the street. The unfortunate dog is sent to live with Becca’s mother (Wiest).

Becca rejects all of Howie’s romantic advances because she presumably fears that it could result in another child that she might also lose. When she sits in the park or goes to the store, there are happy children everywhere. Imagine having to deal with that. She virtually shuts down her life so that she doesn’t have to face any situations in which she’ll be reminded of her dead son. 

The couple regularly visits a support group made up of other parents who are dealing with a similar loss. Becca can’t stand facing that and soon decides to quit. She follows a school bus one day and almost crashes while trying to keep up with it. She watches a boy get off the bus and go into his house. Who is he and why was she so intent on seeing him, but not talking to him? He has an important part to play in the story and is responsible for the film’s title, but I won’t reveal why here.

Despite the sad subject matter, there are plenty of moments of light relief. One involves Howie visiting the support group while he’s high and one of the group starts to talk about rage. I guess some things can seem hilarious when you’re in that state.

The story is about whether Becca and Howie will find a way to deal with their grief and move on with their lives. It seems as if they are always arguing about seemingly insignificant things as they take out their anger on one another. Each has ways of temporarily escaping the situation and it’s not clear whether their relationship will survive. That question is eventually answered and the whole story tackles the subject of losing one’s child in a delicate and authentic way.

I haven’t seen all of Kidman’s roles, but it’s hard to imagine her better than she is here. Eckhart also does a good job and Wiest is outstanding as Becca’s mother. We get to see the characters and their relationships develop and change by the end of the film and the resolution is somehow uplifting. It’s a shame that so few people saw it in the theater.

Video Quality 4.5/5
Due to the low budget, director John Cameron Mitchell shot Rabbit Hole digitally, but the end result looks fantastic. Detail is strong throughout and the digital image looks bright and clear. There are a few soft scenes, but there’s very little to complain about. I felt very involved with the events on the screen at all times.

Audio Quality 5/5
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track isn’t something you would choose to show off your home theater system, but it’s flawless. This is a quiet film driven by dialogue. The characters reflect on their lives and there are no loud explosions or gunshots. Ambient sounds are evident during scenes in the city and in the park and there are no problems of any kind. Dialogue was crisp and clear throughout.

Special Features 2.5/5

Anyone wanting to know more about the film will have to listen to the commentary track. There’s really not much more to indulge in if you’re a fan.

Commentary with director John Cameron Mitchell, screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire, and director of photography Frank G. DeMarco.

Deleted Scenes (3:07)


Rabbit Hole was a complete surprise to me. I expected it to be almost too sad to watch, but it’s actually a well-balanced film. The story seems very truthful, the performances are strong and the Blu-ray presentation is excellent. If you like character-driven drama that’s heavy on dialogue, it’s definitely worth checking out. Although I haven’t revealed how things turn out, I had a sense of optimism when the credits started to roll. Don’t be put off by the strong subject matter.

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