Feb 20, 2011

Notes on Rabbit Hole

'Rabbit Hole' (RH) that is not the kind of film you should go to watch if you’re looking for entertainment, even though you may be one who enjoys serous films. For truly, what RH does is puts the fear of God in you. Scene after scene you witness people and situations and ugliness that is strangely familiar, that is almost premonitory for you know life can do the same to you; that it could be you facing what the lead protagonists of the films are facing instead. That aint a happy thought.

Based on the Pulitzer-prize winning play by  David Linday-Abaire, the films deals with how a couple, Becca (Nicole Kidman ) and Howie (Aaron Eckhart) deal with the loss of their only child – 3 yr old Danny – 8 months after he’s run down by a car. Becca has shut herself in a cocoon and is doing her best to erase any memory of their son. There is a tremendous rage in her that is barely under conrol. She is ready to and does lash out at anyone who offers platitudes or attempts to comfort her for she is clear – there can be no comfort in the face of such irreverrsible loss. Howie on the other hand is dealing with his loss in a different manner. He participates in group therapy, is even willing to think about a second child, and sits up at nights looking at videos of his dead son. The accident has not only killed Danny, it is slowly killing their marriage as well. Somehow Becca connects with Jason (a superb Miles Telller) the high-school kid who ran over Danny by mistake. Thing is, she is unable to connect with anyone who does not experience her grief in the same manner as she does. That her husband is grieving is not enough – he is not grieving as she is.  I found great resonance with Becca forI’m sure you’ve noticed that in moments of great joy or great sorrow, we wish for the people around us to ‘understand us.’ What we actually want is for them to preempt our thoughts, our wishes and behave in exactly the same manner as we do. But that doesn’t happen, it cant and therein lies the chasm. Maybe, people in grief are best left alone. Or so I thought. But then, the film’s end leaves you in doubt if that is the right course.  

Nicole Kidman is the heart and soul of this film and I cannot imagine anyone else doing what she does here. I have never been a great Nicole fan and age has changed her much. RH has gotta be one of the best roles of her lifetime, including The Hours. She has aged well, and I could trace my own grey hair and slight lines in her face. It was a lil unnerving. Watch her in the scene with Jason on the park bench when he apologises to her for the accident and going over the speed limit. For someone who has so much rage trapped inside her, she is surprisingly gentle with him. Of course she is – after all he’s suffering almost as much as she i, and that soothes her. It’s the only assurance she has in a callous universe that Danny mattered, that his death is a travesty, that it is wrong.  She doesn’t get that assurance from the other well-meaning people around her – her sister, mother or husband - who are all grieving in their own way.

There are many beautiful, profound moments in this film and small bits of wisdom – truths which we all know but let go off easily in the face of grief. In one of the film's greatest moments, Becca’s mother (Diane Wiest) offers a definition of loss that is sure to resonate with all of us who have ever known great loss. It is a definition that is both extremely defeating as well as hopeful. It tells us that we'll never be free of grief but it also assures us that it will get bearable with time; it also explains our need to hold on to our grief – when we have lost something that was immeasurably precious, it’s loss is the second best thing that we have to cling on to. 

How these two bereaved people come to terms with the loss of their child and whether their marriage can survive it, is the question the film grapples with. It offers no easy solutions for life is quirky and takes different routes for different folks. On the one hand it seems to be saying (what I firmly believe) – let people grieve in dignity, let’s give them time to come to terms with their loss. This is something we Indians have no notion of. On the other hand, there is also the feeling that people shouldn’t be left alone no matter how difficult they become in the face of deep loss. That it is only by constant perseverance and unconditional support that they can manage to come to grips with their loss, if they ever can. As I said, there are no guarantees, there are no set time limits. The beauty of this film lies in this ambivalence. 

I hope Nicole Kidman wins the Oscar for this one. 


D said...

Loved your review. I enjoyed the film too but my problem was with Nicole. She is too perfect, too pretty for someone who's supposed to be so grief-ravaged. I couldn't help comparing her with someone like Susan Sarandon.

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