Essential film: The Hours


By Erran Kerrigan

As an avid movie collector, there are some titles that I shamefully hide in the darkest corners of my shelves, movies like High School Musical, that for the life of me I cannot understand why I haven’t thrown away. The Hours is not one of them. This is the movie that director Stephen Daldry and screenwriter David Hare created from Michael Cunningham’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Hours.

It follows a day in the lives of three women, set in three different time periods. In the 1920s a dejected English novelist, Virginia Woolf played by Nicole Kidman, battles her fear of encroaching madness. In the 1940s a depressed housewife Laura Brown played by Julianne Moore, living in Los Angeles struggles with motherhood and the ability to make a simple cake; unable to adapt to status quo. In modern day, an artsy New York editor Clarissa Vaughan played by the one and only Meryl Streep, cares for a talented writer, her friend and past lover who is now dying of Aids.

The story interweaves the lives of these three women. They mirror the aspects of Clarissa Dalloway’s life, the heroine of the novel Mrs. Dalloway, written by Virginia Woolf. One life is Virginia Woolf herself, as she writes her novel of the honest nature of the everyday, struggling to come to terms with her new life in suburban Richmond whilst envying her old one in the city. Laura Brown raises her son whilst trying to care for a home and a husband she does not love, she reads Mrs Dalloway and ponders the idea of release. Finally, the life of Clarissa Vaughan, who is nicknamed “Mrs. Dalloway” by her unrequited love Richard because of her first name but her independent strength and relentless positivity.

The Hours has an ability to capture the innate human desire to preserve one’s sense of self through choice and change. Everything these three woman know and feel is ripped apart and put back together, keeping in mind that their lives are refocused in the course of just one day. Kidman, Moore and Streep’s outstanding performances reveal to the audience that for the characters to escape what binds them, they must accept change otherwise it will consume them.

Nicole Kidman with her portrayal of Virginia Woolf received an Academy Award for Best Actress. For me, she was one of the reasons I think so highly of the movie. As Woolf, Kidman grips the audience with her speech of life and her struggle with darkness. The firm beat of her voice as she questions her right to choose her own path which she believes sustains her humanity brings the viewer to attention. Even as I am writing this article I can hear her voice in my head.

This is not a chirpy happy-go-lucky film. This is an intense, steady-as-you go experience playing out complicated relationships and pent up emotions of depression, suicide and love with a touch of madness and melancholy. A movie to be watched time and time again in order to fully absorb the layers of emotions and ideas that is laid out before you. The Hours captured my attention because it gave a real understanding of human nature and emotion, without having to resort to clichés or over the top notions.