There’s nothing worse than losing a child. It deadens you to the point where you feel like you can’t go on. The sadness is just too unbearable to allow it. Yet, somehow you do move forward, just like the grief-stricken couple at the heart of the beautifully rendered “Rabbit Hole.”

There’s nothing worse than losing a child. It deadens you to the point where you feel like you can’t go on. The sadness is just too unbearable to allow it. Yet, somehow you do move forward, just like the grief-stricken couple at the heart of the beautifully rendered “Rabbit Hole.”


Even though they are played by actors as striking as Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart, the Corbetts of Westchester County are as resolutely human as any couple scrambling to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.


The ease in which each finds their way into your heart is a testament to the intensity of performances that cut directly to the frayed nerves of two people trying to make sense of how in an instant they went from being parents to being nothing.


Watching them try to regain their equilibrium is indeed difficult, if not downright unsettling, but Kidman and Eckhart demand you keep watching through each wrenching epiphany and hard-won truth.


In adapting his Pulitzer-winning play to the screen, David Lindsay-Abaire not only expands on the story’s themes of acceptance and forgiveness, he also injects generous amounts of unexpected humor that keep the film’s inherent dourness from becoming all consuming.


It’s the family dynamics, though, that thoroughly engross you, especially the turbulent bond connecting Kidman’s Becca Corbett with her well-meaning, but somewhat clueless mother (potential Oscar nominee Diane Wiest), who has an unfortunate knack for always saying the wrong thing.


Watching them evolve from combatants to confidants is as thrilling as it is moving, and it’s all due to the levels of truth and compassion that Kidman and Wiest generate over the course of the film.


What gets to you even more, though, is Lindsay-Abaire’s decision to bring together Becca and the guilt-ridden teenager who was behind the wheel when her 4-year-old son, Danny, darted out into their quiet, residential street.


He’s played by newcomer Miles Teller, and the three or four all-too-short scenes he shares with Kidman are among the film’s best, covering the spectrum from utter devastation to faint glimmers of hope.


Somewhat lost in all of this bonding is Eckhart’s Howie, who is allotted considerably less screen time than Kidman. But that only makes what Eckhart accomplishes all the more impressive.


Unlike Becca, who wants to forget that her son ever existed, Howie wallows in the memories, poring over photos, replaying home movies and prominently displaying the preschooler’s rudimentary artworks throughout the house.


He also desperately wants to get back the affectionate, fun-loving wife Becca was prior to the accident. And when he’s convinced that might never happen, he becomes more and more tempted to seek solace in the arms of another grieving mother played by Sandra Oh.


Where this is all headed is blissfully unpredictable, right up to the film’s haunting conclusion. But it’s hard not to walk away with a vivid understanding of why so many marriages fail to withstand the strain brought about by the guilt and finger pointing.


Credit a lot of that to director John Cameron Mitchell. In making his first foray into the mainstream after stirring up the art houses with his transgender musical, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and the controversial “Shortbus,” Mitchell stays true to his belief that every movie lives or dies on its ability to make the emotions real and relatable.


With “Rabbit Hole” he accomplishes both in delivering a film that puts you through the wringer, yet leaves you calling out for more because the characters, including Becca’s sassy and very pregnant sister, Izzy (Tammy Blanchard), are so fascinating.


More than anything, “Rabbit Hole” serves as a poignant reminder of how resolutely we should appreciate the time we have with our children no matter how long, or short, a time that may be.


Al Alexander may be reached at aalexander@ledger.com.


RABBIT HOLE  (PG-13 for mature thematic material, some drug use and language.) Cast includes Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Diane Wiest, Miles Teller, Sandra Oh and Tammy Blanchard. Directed by John Cameron Mitchell. 3.5 stars out of 4.