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Lions Gate Entertainment

Rabbit Hole

Movies

Issue: "Babies are back," Jan. 29, 2011

Profound grief is like being forcibly removed to another country. Daily life happens all around the griever, but the griever is separate, isolated, in the world but not of it. Rabbit Hole (rated PG-13 for some language and pot use) delves into this foreign country that no one wants to visit, but that becomes home to almost all of us sometime.

Becca (Nicole Kidman) gamely tries to reconstruct her life eight months after her young son dies in an accident. She gardens, she attends a support group, she spends time with her family. Mourning, however, inhabits the rooms through which she walks and flavors the air she breathes. "He's everywhere," she tells her husband Howie (Aaron Eckhart). "I can see his fingerprints on the doorknobs."

Howie stumbles his way through his days. He's returned to work, returned to the squash court, and tries to coax his wife into normal life. Life, however, is far from normal. When Becca cannot bear the religious platitudes ("God needed another angel") spouted by another couple grappling with their own loss at the support group, Becca and Howie begin to drift into different paths of dealing with grief.

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In other hands, such a potentially maudlin subject would delve into sappiness or pat answers, but the script by David Lindsay-Abaire rejects the easy path. Kidman rises to the level of the script, bringing empathy to a woman who wants to move on but can't find the right formula. Eckhart gives a powerful performance as a good man desperate to help his wife but still drowning in his own loss and rage. Dianne Wiest, as Becca's mother who clumsily tries to share memories of her own mourning, is wonderful.

If knowing the answers made it easy to escape the land of sorrow, none of us would spend time there. There is no right way to navigate this foreign country, no magic incantation to find release. The only way out is through. This film beautifully and heart-shatteringly demonstrates that fact.

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