Starring Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Diane Wiest

The promos say this movie is about a happy couple whose lives are turned upside down after their young son dies in an accident. This sounds unappealing to most to say the least.  It is.  But, it is also a compelling story that is rarely unveiled well.

How do you deal with the death of a child?  There is no manual for it.   There is no instruction book or group class that really addresses it. No trite phrases really work. Some retreat to religion and God for answers.  Others only damn any god who could allow such a tragedy to happen. What works for one probably will not work for you. There really is no right or wrong.  It often tears moms and dads right down the middle, through the heart and splits their gut.   Everyone has to find their own way to cope.  And, no one really has the answers. No one probably ever will. Group therapy only seems to unveil that no one else deals well with the death of a child either.

TMG  has seen my parents bury two sons. That means I have buried two young brothers. One was over thirty three years ago. I have never gotten over it.  I never will.  You learn to cope. Perhaps more correct, you learn coping mechanisms.  You learn to laugh and play again, but you are really never the same again.  This movie will be cathartic to some who have “been there” —to those who have passed into the Rabbit Hole.

Diane Weist is terrific as the grandmother of four year old little Arthur.  Arthur is the dead son of Howie (Eckhart) and Becca (Kidman).  Arthur has already died when the movie begins. He had chased  his dog “Taz” into the street and was accidentally struck by a local  high school senior named Jason—played by promising newcomer,  Miles Teller.  The movie follows their struggle for answers. Answers (no spoiler here) that never really come.

Howie and Becca are dealing with the death in any way they can imagine, but both are processing it very differently. Advice and comfort from Grandma Diane is almost off-base.  Comparison to the loss of her 30- year- old son from heroin seems unfair and almost cruel. But as she shouts defiantly and convincingly “He was still my son.”  I get it.  Not everyone will. In the face of the death of a child, the cause pales in comparison to the effect.

Becca’s rather immature, tough young sister gets pregnant and is unmarried. No irony is treated sacred in this film.  The death of a child makes no sense.  Why should anything else? And young Jason has to live the reality he struck and killed a four year old boy.  It really was not his fault at all. But little Arthur was still dead.  Jason’s  life is no less altered. Becca tries to cope by moving on and trying to engage Jason, but the connection is so hard to understand or even place correctly. Howie hangs on too tight.

Those that survive such deaths, physically and emotionally, never lead bucolic or perfect lives again. They often do become more pragmatic.  They learn a house is just brick and mortar. They learn that friends, awkward as they may often be, mean well. They appreciate no one has an exclusive on happiness. When the dog barks too loud, just slip him an Ambien and laugh about it. You may be facing the most awful thing imaginable, but you learn to move on. You may falter into drugs or an affair or just to crying aimlessly in your car. But, you learn somehow to cope. The only alternative is to cop out.

See this movie if you are young, if you are old, if you have had a close loved one die, or if you never have. It raises serious and valuable questions.  It teaches you how to cope without knowing all the answers. It will prepare you for the reality that for some things, answers may never come.