An excellent play (written by David Lindsay-Abaire) has been translated into one of the finest films of the year. Nicole Kidman (Becca) and Aaron Eckhart (Howie) are dealing with the most horrific loss a parent can suffer: the senseless death of a cherished child. (This is evident from the commencement of the movie). Both actors soar in their personal approach to recognizing the lifetime sentence, confronting and living with irreparable, terminal emotional devastation; the rawness of the wound palatable, profound. Rarely is the dignity of pain so vividly, realistically depicted; Becca and Howie bleed internally, while hunting for salvation in group therapy; cooking complex meals; squash games; looking for normalcy in the mundane, meaningless moments of every conscious, waking minute. We have an example of acting, so acutely, tragically poignant it resonates in the mind, heart, long after the conclusion; we have voyeuristically been witness to the demise and transformation of a relationship once passionate, now ashes, burned by tragedy, smoldering, still living.
The supporting cast is stupendous: Dianne Wiest as Nat, Becca’s mother gives a pristine performance of a woman who accepts the “bricks” of pain, loss, she survives by keeping the doors of life and love open. Tammy Blanchard as Izzy, Becca’s “flower child” pregnant sister; is the perfect foil, balance in coping with her sister’s aching, fragile rigidity; their love for each other tenuous, constantly tested. Sandra Oh, always in control of her roles, is Gabby, finding her only solace in group- grieving therapy. She imbues the film with levity, light, “comic relief” from the gravity, density of sorrow. Miles Teller, is Jason, the creative teenager who writes the comic book from which the film takes it title. The rabbit hole is a metaphor for seeking, searching, hiding, protection; primarily a scientific vision, a parallel universe where tragedy and its repercussions are anathema.
The pivotal scene where a shift of consciousness occurs is between Becca and Nat. With the question “does it ever go away”? I was reminded of a parable I read long ago about suffering . An elderly couple had lost their only child and questioned God, priests, rabbis, ministers pleading for answers. Finally, seeking an old woman known for her wisdom and compassion, begging her to reveal how they could relieve themselves of their endless and horrible suffering. With gentleness, she touched them and replied, “I am unable to remove your pain, I can only teach you how to make it sacred.”