Yesterday was my 18th birthday and as always I did something film-related in honour of this day; previous examples include a ‘chick-flick’ themed party or spending most of the day in the cinema, I am as you can see obsessed. This year I decided, after glowing praise and recommendation from friends to visit the Electric Cinema on Portobello Road: a filmy haven complete with soft leather armchairs, classic theatre style decor and a bar (which in being 18 I made full use of). I had initially wanted to see Black Swan there, however the programme changed just in time for my birthday and thus the only film showing was Rabbit Hole. Admittedly, I had my reservations. With the slightly off-putting label of ‘grief movie’ or ‘suburban tragedy’ I felt this might put a downer on what was meant to be a celebratory day, however I was persuaded by positive critical reviews.
I wasn’t disappointed. For me, this is as ‘real’ as cinema can get; when one feels like the voyeur in an uncomfortable situation. This is what Rabbit Hole accomplishes. There a sense throughout the film you may or may not be watching scenes of particular importance; seemingly mundane, everyday activities such as cooking or shopping, however that is the brilliance of this film. Its this simplicity makes you realise how fragile an existence we lead and how normalcy is so hard to maintain in the face of tradgedy. And it isn’t completely drenched in sorrow; there is a brilliant laugh out loud moment when Howie, played by Aaron Eckhart, experiments with recreational drug use with a fellow group member and which inevitably results in some untimely giggling. I found it easy to identify with the characters in this film; they weren’t spouting the usually cliche lines that are so often found in deep and meaningful movies, but rather endure awkward and clumsy social encounters or full-blown fights. They are allowed to laugh or break down in tears. They are sometimes unsympathetic, but you root for this couple to make it work. And yet at the same times as feeling entirely realistic, there is the sense that this is a beautifully constructed piece. Accompanied by music relfective of the emotions as well as visually dazzling cinematography and beautifully composed shots, this is nevertheless a delicate and subtle film.
Nicole Kidman doesn’t always hit the mark, in fact, in recent times she has failed to impress more often than not and Aaron Eckhart isn’t particularly associated with heavyweight performances (Love Happens?? No Reservations??) but they compliment each other wonderfully. Becca and Howie deal with grief differently, embarking on their own separate journeys and yet there is a glimmer of hope that they find their way back in the end. With a 90 minute running time as well this is a film that doesn’t wallow in self-indulgence or drawn out emotional scenes, instead it packs quite a punch. I left the cinema feeling as though I’d watch a snippet of real life, something hard to navigate, sometimes intangible, agonising, confusing, darkly humourous and yet not without hope. Great performances, great script, great movie. All in all a great birthday.