What Is the Movie "Rabbit Hole" About?

by James Rutter

John Cameron Mitchell directed "Rabbit Hole," a 2010 drama based on David Lindsay-Abaire's Pulitzer-prize winning play of the same name. Lindsay-Abaire also penned the movie's script. This movie stars Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart as Becca and Howie Corbett, a married couple coming to terms with the loss of their 4-year old son, who died before the events of the movie.


Becca and Howie still grieve the loss of their son Danny, killed by a teenage driver eight months earlier. Howie wants to resume marital relations, while also fighting to keep their son's room unaltered from the day of his death. Becca wants to take down Danny's drawings from the refrigerator and pack away his clothes. While Howie attends a support group that Becca disdains, she bickers with her mother and sister. She begins stalking Jason, the teenager who accidentally killed their son, and then she starts meeting with him. At the support group, Howie begins flirting with another grieving parent.

Dealing with Trauma

The movie examines the strategies that people use to overcome trauma and to find some semblance of meaning in a tragedy. All of the characters struggle; Becca's mother still mourns a brother who died of a drug overdose. Becca responds to her mother's grief by lashing out that the two deaths are not similar. Jason tries to alleviate his anxieties over the accident by writing a comic book that details an alternate reality in which his car didn't hit Danny. Each wonders what the coping accomplishes. Does keeping Danny's drawings up respect his memory? How long should Howie and Becca mourn before attempting to start a family again?

Re-establishing Relationships

At the beginning of the film, Becca and Howie connect to each another via their shared grief over the death of their son. The film explores how a couple can move beyond a shared trauma that each person approaches and experiences differently. Becca rejects the platitudes offered by her mother and the support group that Howie attends. Each must find a way to suppress their grief and anger over the death before they can move forward again as a couple.

Science and the Afterlife

The play derives its title from the scientific notion of multiple universes linked together by means of a "rabbit hole." In the film, Jason writes a comic book that explores rabbit holes as a way to deal with his grief. This scientific concept suggests that tunnels link a multitude of possible, parallel universes; in one of these universes, Becca and Howie's son was not hit by a car and they still exist as a family. Lindsay-Abaire's script shows how this concept can function as an alternative to religion as a source of consolation. In that regard, "Rabbit Hole" offers a humanistic approach to understanding, and ultimately accepting, an inexplicable, tragic event.

About the Author

Since 2005, James Rutter has worked as a freelance journalist for print and Internet publications, including the “News of Delaware County,” “Main Line Times” and Broad Street Review. As a former chemist, college professor and competitive weightlifter, he writes about science, education and exercise. Rutter earned a B.A. in philosophy and biology from Albright College and studied philosophy and cognitive science at Temple University.