Reid’s ghost story uses innocuous objects to emphasize the film’s sense of unease. First, Mia shows up with a white fluffy rabbit and quickly becomes obsessed with it, to the point where she begins wearing a self-made pink rabbit mask. The bunny, which she names Rabbit, ominously hops around the house, a harbinger of the bad things still to come. When Sarah tries to get rid of Rabbit, it bites her, the first of many injuries she will incur as she spirals over memories of her missing sister, her estranged mother, and her recently departed father. The film’s conflict is centered between mother Sarah, and daughter Mia, but it also includes a thorny relationship with Sarah’s mother, Joan (Greta Scacchi), creating a cycle of guilt from childhood sins and feeling like she’s not doing enough for her kid.
Rabbit is not the only troubling thing in Hannah Kent’s script. In setting up Sarah’s narrative, Kent shows the audience how much Sarah’s been pushed to the brink even before anything unexplained begins. She’s divorced and co-parenting with her ex-husband, Pete (Damon Herriman), who has moved on and is starting a new family of his own. Sarah is also dealing with the death of her dad, his things are still piled up in her garage, still to be sorted through. And then there’s her mother, an ominous figure also losing her memories to dementia. When Mia’s problems escalate, she first tries to be the strong parent doing what’s right for her child, but then, she starts to hurt herself in the process and by extension, hurts Mia.
In a marvelous departure from her best-known role as Shiv Roy in “Succession,” Snook brings her character a motherly sense of care and duty. She’s attentive and affectionate in ways many of us haven’t seen her. Her calm, collected demeanor quickly erodes in the face of uncertainty and stress. Snook’s attention and care for LaTorre’s Mia are deeply felt, and their bond is evident from the first scene when the mother wakes up her daughter with a birthday gift. LaTorre looks at Snook with large expressive eyes that shift from confused and scared when she’s inexplicably bleeding to burning with rage when she screams that she’s actually Alice. But in moments of Mia’s clarity, LaTorre runs to Snook and embraces her tightly for safety, establishing the close relationship between the pair early on, giving us a sense of what will be lost once Rabbit enters the frame.