It is hard to know exactly how you would react to the death of a child unless it happened to you. For Becca and Howie Corbett (Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart), the reality of that trial has hit them head on. Some people in the Corbett’s bereavement support group turn to their religious beliefs for comfort. Others find strength in being part of a unit with a shared history. But Becca can’t find any peace and she isnt about to let others find it either. Refusing any intimate gestures from her husband, invitations from the neighbors, or comforting words from her mother (Dianne Wiest) and sister (Tammy Blanchard), Becca prefers to be alone in her garden. However her mourning isn’t always private. Lashing out at a grieving couple in a weekly support meeting, she mocks their belief in God and stuns the other brokenhearted parents in the room with her outburst.
Unfortunately the eruption also upsets Howie who is trying to put his life back together by resuming the daily activities he enjoyed before the event. Although he watches videos of their laughing child by himself in the quiet hours of the night, during the day he reaches out to friends and coworkers.
However as days and weeks turn to months, the gulf grows between the couple and their inability to comfort one another slowly drains the life out of their marriage. Each of them looks for solace on their own. Becca begins a relationship with a reserved teenaged boy (Miles Teller). She meets him in the park to talk after school. Howie turns to Gaby (Sandra Oh), a woman from their support group that he starts to smoke pot with. But even these outlets don’t fill the void left by Danny’s (Phoenix List) death.
Based on a play by David Lindsay-Abaire, this script adapts well to the big screen. Both Kidman and Eckhart put in strong performances as individuals who are grasping to find meaning in their disrupted lives. Faced with difficult choices, they flounder and flail to get a finger hold on their new reality. Their choices, combined with other mature themes in the movie, will make this story an unlikely option for children and many teens. Frequent profanities, including the single use of a strong sexual expletive, grief-driven disparaging religious comments and the portrayal of illegal drug use, may also be problematic for some viewers.
Still the film captures the emotional, as well as physical, pain endured by this pair as they clean out their son’s bedroom, pack up his clothes and put away the little reminders of him that linger like a shadow around the house. Yet this decent into the unknown darkness of grief offers a glimmer of hope for viewers as this couple struggles to find forgiveness, acceptance and hope for their future.