With his piercing, well-wrought and superbly acted 2001 film, In The Bedroom, Todd Field (in his directorial debut) delivered a remarkably observed examination on loss, despair and the intractable pain that readily accompanies grief. At the centre is Matt and Ruth Fowler (Tom Wilkinson and Sissy Spacek in astounding turns), an aging couple unraveling in the wake of their young son’s murder at the hands of the estranged husband of the woman (Marisa Tomei) with whom he was having an affair.
Weaving together elements of bitterness, bereavement and vengeance, In The Bedroom wondrously illuminated the potential for unbearable grief – moreso, death – to both fracture relationships and lace mourners ever closer together. After the death of a child, does the pain ever truly go away?
Nearly a decade later, that question lingers at the core of the emotionally shattering Rabbit Hole, John Cameron Mitchell’s vivid and telling adaptation of David Lindsay-Abaire’s Pulitzer and Tony-winning drama that unremittingly tackles themes that reeled in viewers of In The Bedroom. The grief-stricken parents here are Howie and Becca Corbett (the outstanding pair of Aaron Eckhart and Nicole Kidman) who, eight months later, are struggling to come to terms with the vehicular death of their four-year-old son at the hands of a teenage driver. Like the Fowlers, the Corbetts are desperately searching for a return to normalcy after the loss of their child, wading through grief, anger and pain.
To aid in their quest for reason and sanity as they sort through their feelings, particularly the resentment that quietly festers beneath the façade of ordinariness, the Corbetts join a support group peopled by other parents (including Sandra Oh) who’ve lost children. But that does little to douse the raging flames that burn within Becca, in particular. At her family home, she bonds with her mother (a remarkable Dianne Wiest) over the mutual sentiment of losing a child, and at one point attempts to pass on some of her dead son’s things to her sister’s son.