The Hours is a 2002 drama film directed by Stephen Daldry and starring Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, and Nicole Kidman. The movie is based on Michael Cunningham’s 1998 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same title.
The Hours was critically acclaimed upon release and would receive numerous awards nominations and wins for diverse categories – from the acting to the screenplay to the music score. Certainly, the movie is an ambitious work that has stood the test of time. Let’s discuss why that is.
The plot of The Hours itself is innovative and challenging. It focuses on three women of different generations whose lives are interconnected by the 1925 novel Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.
These primary characters are Clarissa Vaughan (Streep), a New Yorker preparing an award party for her AIDS-stricken long-time friend and poet, Richard (Ed Harris) in 2001, Laura Brown (Moore), a pregnant 1950s California housewife in an unhappy marriage with a young son, and Virginia Woolf (Kidman) herself in 1920s England, who is struggling with depression and mental illness while trying to write her novel.
The entire storyline of The Hours, apart from the opening and ending sequences depicting the 1941 suicide of Virginia Woolf, take place in a single day. This mirrors the plot in Mrs Dalloway. The genius of the writing is the manner in which the three seemingly disparate stories are interconnected. The jump from different time frames is smoothly achieved and with narrative purpose. Taken together, these storylines collectively present a powerful message about women, depression and the source of creativity.
The performances of the leads add power to this thematic thrust. From the outside looking in, the movie tests our emphatic understanding and engages us by allowing us to live a day in the shoes of these complex women. Without the nuanced acting of Streep, Moore and Kidman, our investment would be lessened and the impact of the movie on heart and soul be not be the same.
For anyone unfamiliar with mental illness, The Hours is a formidable tool to bridging the chasm that often separates sufferers from loved ones and well-meaning strangers. Mental illness is a thought process that takes hold despite the circumstances and not easily dismissed or resisted.
There is much to take away from The Hours, a serious movie about serious issues without reducing one iota of its entertainment value. Thought-provoking with emotional resonance, we would highly recommend the movie to anyone who appreciates the power of film to engage and empower!
… still there’s more …