by Sarah Cope
Seeing a film about a couple whose four-year-old son has recently been knocked down by a car and killed does not sound the most entertaining or enjoyable way of spending an evening. Perhaps that’s why the cinema old held 15 or so audience members at the showing I attended. However, there is much of worth in this depiction of grief, and despite it being a mainstream Hollywood film, it handled its subject matter deftly, and, importantly, unsentimentally.
Nicole Kidman, who has made many a duff film, is at her best here as Becca, the mother of the dead boy. She and husband Howie (Aaron Eckhart) have vastly different responses to the death, and this drives a wedge between them. Kidman’s Becca is angry, aggressive and determined to get on with life, at least on the surface. However, she then starts to “stalk” the teenager who was driving the car that hit her son, and strikes up an unlikely acquaintanceship with him.
It’s at this point that Kidman is basically acted right off the screen. Because Miles Teller, who plays Jason, is incredible. His flickering eyes, filling with tears, dart around as he explains that he may have been going “one or two kilometres over the speed limit” that day, and that he just wished he had driven down a different street. The scenes between Kidman and Teller were so naturalistic they felt almost improvised, but that is highly unlikely to be the case in such a big budget film.
The film isn’t all heavy going, though. Like Becca’s own inability to deal with her own grief, the narrative seemingly dances at the edge of sentimentality before – mercifully – pulling back and lightening the mood with humour. Humour, in a film about a dead four-year-old – how is that going to work? Well, it does, and the audience, small though we were, grasped at the lighter moments gratefully.
There are a few wrong notes, such as the scene where Jason just turns up at the couple’s house, enraging Howie, who doesn’t know that his wife has made contact with the boy. Another element that didn’t quite work was the title of the film, which is taken from the comic that Jason is drawing. This seemed ‘tagged on’ to the action, rather spuriously, and didn’t really add anything to the plot.
One other thing to note, and I hardly know whether to mention it: Kidman’s face. There has been much comment over the last few years about her lack of expression, with speculation that too much Botox was to blame. I didn’t find her face expressionless at all; the problem was actually much worse. She has clearly had a lot of what is referred to as “work” done (it seems, in Hollywood, that an actress, in order to get work needs to have “work” done), and this really proved distracting, to this audience member, at least. She looks neither old nor young, just plain wrong.
Of course, many Hollywood actresses have had plastic surgery, but this is the first time when it has actually got in my way of appreciating a performance.
Rabbit Hole is on general release.