Grieving: The Movie might have been a better title for this plodding, but well-acted, film that explores loss and pain in great degree but doesn’t spend enough time on healing and hope. Nicole Kidman (Moulin Rouge) and BYU-grad Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight) star as a couple trying to pick up the pieces after their young son dies in an accident. Though there are moments of great emotional power, the film as a whole is dramatically unsatisfying, unloading mountains of sorrow on its audience while providing only minor resolution to each of its two main conflicts, namely the mourning of a child’s death and a couple’s struggle to reconnect after it. I’ve no problem with films that wallow in despair and darkness; movies such as Harry Potter and States of Grace do so in order to contrast with heroism, selflessness, and redemption and faith. Rabbit Hole, on the other hand, spends two hours making the viewer yearn deeply for healing and reconciliation, but underplays the delivery of the same so completely that it left my wife and I asking “Was that it?”
There are some redeeming elements. While the cinematography, editing, and music aren’t flashy (nor should they be), the acting is terrific. Nicole Kidman clearly pours herself completely into this role and does some fine work. Aaron Eckhart runs a full gamut of human emotions; his character (spoiler), though tempted and lonely, stands by his wife and marital vows. The film will give viewers greater empathy and understanding of the struggles of those who’ve lost a child. There are some nice messages about forgiveness and reaching out to those who have hurt us. But it misses opportunities to show how faith and healthy relationships can provide hope and comfort after tragedy. Instead, religion is denigrated (Kidman blasts it, only later to find relief in psuedo-science) and the film ends just as the marriage is showing minor signs of life; another ten minutes to show these characters really starting love each other again would have made this a story better told.
CONTENT OVERVIEW: Rabbit Hole is rated PG-13. It contains one f-word and a handful of moderate profanities. A woman curses God, comparing him to an abusive husband/father. A man and woman smoke marijuana, though this is shown to have negative consequences. The film is thematically intense, dealing with grief, guilt, and the death of a child.
MESSAGES TO DISCUSS: Grief must be passed through; we hurt because we love, and the only way to live without pain is to live without love. Husbands are to love and cleave unto their wives and none else. Peace comes through forgiveness.
Jonathan Decker is the clinical director of Your Family Expert. He is a licensed marriage and family therapist, husband, and father of five. Jonathan earned a masters degree in family therapy from Auburn University as well as a bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology from Brigham Young University. He is an actor, author, and television personality.