It’s established: Saturday nights are movie nights in our house!
Last Saturday this movie jumped at us in the video shop. We were in a rush, toddler was amassing chocolate star bags and Peppa Pig DVDs off the shelves at an alarming rate so we didn’t even have time to read the clippings on the back. It was enough to see Nicole Kidman was in it, we knew we couldn’t go terribly wrong.We did expect complexity of plot(which we got) but we didn’t expect a message of hope out of such a sad case.
Storyline? A young couple who have it all going for themselves (big house in an affluent suburb, important jobs,the kid and the dog!), face indescribable loss when their six-year-old boy is hit and killed by a car in front of the house. The movie observes the aftermath of the tragedy and the very different coping mechanisms the parents resort to. It’s almost a clinic observation of techniques on “How to deal with the death of a loved one.” The only thing that surprises the viewer is its conclusion.
Let me expand on it a little bit. Mum completely shuts herself off, even from her own mother and sister, and lives an a recluse having occasional outbursts of rage at whoever catches her eye. She is furious with God to the point that she stops believing in His existence. Dad has a totally different approach to the situation and he clings to everything that reminds him of his son: the car seat, the boy’s drawings on the fridge and his toys. But things need to change because the human soul was not created to contain and sustain such an amount of pain and devastation. So they try to find solutions to pain: the mother(Nicole Kidman) finds the teenager who killed her son and tries to get some sort of closure. The father thinks he can have an affair with another grieving parent but realises last minute that it would be a mistake.
The title of the movie comes from the comic book the teenager who has killed their son puts together. It is a parallel world story in which a father has to get through a rabbit hole to try and find his way into a different dimension where his son has gone. Symbolically for the bereaved parents, this father finds his son but “not really, because he’s in a different dimension now, he has taken a different form.” Just like the parent in the comic book, they would have to dig their way out of the rabbit hole in which they buried themselves and live with the pain of losing their son as a substitute for the real thing.
I found the moment when the parents reconnect extremely touching. No big formulas to their pain, no magic wands to make it all better. Just learning to live again, baby step after baby step, re-learning to be part of the world without their son. Extremely touching.
What I learned? To have a lot of respect for people who have experienced a loss and are still together. A loss carries so much emotion with it that the “natural” response would be to disengage from all meaningful relationships which remind one of it. To stick with it and see it through TOGETHER involves a lot of courage, especially when the spouses’ responses to it can be dramatically different.