Finally, a movie has been released that shows how the death of a child traumatizes a whole family. It has taken a very long time to try to portray accurately the toll such an event takes on everyone involved: parents, siblings (if any), grandparents, other relatives and friends.
Until the 1980s, the death of a child was kept hidden under the table. No one ever spoke about it because no one was ever educated as to how to react when it happened. Thank God for books, for Harriett Schiff’s first attempt to explain what you will go through if it ever happens to you and to all succeeding books on all aspects of death of a child with a variety of opinions as to reactions.
A few movies attempted to tackle the subject and were fairly successful. But now, Director John Cameron Mitchell has given Nicole Kidman a chance to delve into the depths of despair, a depth to which no one can understand but a bereaved parent. Mitchell himself was a bereaved sibling but watched the effect it had on his parents and he never forgot. He read the screenplay and knew he had to do it.
“Rabbit Hole” is based on the Pulitzer Prize winning play by the same name. The movie starts eight months after Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie’s (Aaron Eckhart) young son Adam dies when he runs into the street after his dog. Their hearts are broken and day to day, they are simply trying to find their way, a feat that no one is truly prepared to face.
They are at the opposite ends of the grief spectrum. Becca thinks she is ready to move on, but she is not openly grieving. Howie sees something wrong with not grieving and seeks solace in a support group. Becca’s mother (Dianne Wiest), whose adult son — Becca’s brother — died from a drug overdose, is coping with religion.
All the characters are portrayed realistically as they go through their initial grief period. One has to remember that everyone grieves differently, and we can’t expect the same reaction from either the grieving parents or those close to them.
For me, the only part of the film that is not very realistic is some of the support group scenes, like when they go into the parking lot during a break, smoke pot and come back to the meeting in a different mood. That is not what a support group meeting is about.
There is, however, a lot that bereaved parents can take away from the movie: different types of grieving; decisions on changing your life; anger; friends who don’t know how to handle someone’s grief; tears that come when you least expect them; and intimacy issues. The movie’s main theme is to “create a new normal” for yourself and your family. All of these issues and more are discussed in my new book also.
One piece of advice I always tell others is not to let anyone tell you they understand how you feel because they don’t and never will unless it happens to them. Bravo to the friends who just simply say, “I’m sorry. I can’t even imagine what you are going through.” Those are the honest ones, the ones who care about you, the ones who will be there for you simply to comfort and offer help. They understand.
You can not get out of this movie without crying, but that is not bad. Crying is not a bad thing. It is more of a release of emotions and pain.
Kidman said she hopes “this film reminds people, especially those still grieving, that they’re not alone. There is no solution to taking this pain away, but you’re not alone.”
Sandy Fox 2011