Rabbit Hole - DVD Review

Although its eighty-six per cent Rotten Tomatoes score might suggest otherwise, Rabbit Hole somehow took on the aura of critical disdain during its awards run last year. John Cameron Mitchell's film was labelled as having 'good taste', as having created a sense of 'overriding sadness' and of being 'decorous', all phrases you can find in the negative reviews, positive barbs thrown at the film accusingly like spears at the enemy. Apparently, being great at what you set out to achieve now qualifies as a bad thing.

Mitchell's film does set out to be tasteful and demonstrably glum and, yes, 'decorous'. It is exceptionally well made and exceptionally well acted and it creates not just a sense of sadness and isolation but an accurate sense of not knowing how to escape those very things. It does all this without treading roughshod over its subject matter and without grandstanding with large pieces of poorly judged melodrama. It is beautifully photographed by Frank G. DeMarco, in pastel shades that hint at repression and sepia homes that speak of middle-class disaster.

The subjects of the film, Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie (Aaron Eckhart), are grieving over the result of an accident Mitchell wisely never shows you. In fact, he doesn't even tell you about it directly. When we join Becca and Howie we just know that something is wrong in suburbia and the grim details emerge remarkably naturally from David Lindsay-Abaire's script. The tense nature of approaching grief and loss in this shielded, almost hidden, way, speaks volumes for how the film both treads carefully around a difficult subject and for how the naturalistic reveal - mainly in half-completed conversations - is even more shocking than screening the event itself. Sometimes it's the little practicalities, like calling a friend for the first time after a sad event, that prove the most poignant and the most difficult to complete.

Whilst Rabbit Hole might, at times, involve scenes that are troubling to observe it is never, as a whole, a 'difficult watch'. The subject may be maudlin but Mitchell's film is refreshing in its honesty and revealing in its portrait of two loving souls, trapped in the wrong version of their reality. It is, largely, bereft of humour and there is little break in the storm clouds, but this is part of its success. Mitchell has made a film that doesn't just talk about grief: it lives and reflects it, pushing everything else down and trapping you in its hapless colour palette.

Look further...

'it always felt like I was watching a movie about manufactured tragedy that was supposed to make me rub my hands together and lick my chops at all of the delicious schadenfreude' - Nathan Adams And The Temple Of Reviews, 3/5


  1. Wholly in agreement here. While I don't think it's a 5/5 (or by extension a 10/10 on my blog), I don't think it's nearly as downtrodden as some people make it. Nor as overtly melodramatic - without cause - as other's have berated it for being.

  2. I don't think that this is a perfect film but it still does have two great performances from Eckhart and Kidman and has real hart and maturity to its subject matter. Great review.

  3. Univarn - Yes, I'm not sure I understand those arguments. I don't think its melodramatic at all and, although it is about grief, I think its so well made that there is some 'enjoyment' contained within.

    Dan - Agree wholeheartedly, although I obviously enjoyed it even more than you. The leads are note perfect I'd say.

  4. This review is heroic. Thank you for writing it. I loved this film and put it in my Top 5 last year for all the reasons you note.

  5. Just sought out your review and shall comment but yes, this film is amazing and I find myself wanting to watch it again right now, something I never thought possible when glancing over the subject matter. Tremendous film-making.