‘The Hours’ weaves three tales of depression


The Hours

is a brilliant film about three extraordinary women who are
overwhelmed by depression, and these three women live in three
different eras: England of 1921, Los Angeles of 1951, and New York
City, circa 2001.
“The Hours” is a brilliant film about three extraordinary women who are overwhelmed by depression, and these three women live in three different eras: England of 1921, Los Angeles of 1951, and New York City, circa 2001.

Using careful editing and story construction, Director Stephen Daldry artistically weaves the different eras and stories together, showing the connection between the women as they try to make some sense of their lives.

“The Hours” is given its context by a single scene reflecting a terrible moment in the history of literature, when Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman), suffering from bouts of severe depression, dropped a large, heavy rock into her coat and proceded to walk into a lake, drowning in the process.

This event is foreshadowed by a conversation with her husband, Leonard (Stephen Dillane), where we discover that Virginia has a history of hearing voices, fainting and feeling so sad that it borders on suicide, but she doesn’t know why.

Her husband decides to move the family from London to the country setting of Richmond, which unfortunately worsens Virginia’s condition, as her sister Vanessa (Miranda Richardson), with her three children by her side, makes Virginia realize what she is missing of the city during her rural life.

Woolf’s condition is contrasted by Laura Brown (Julianne Moore), who in 1951 is similarly suicidal, unhappy with her family life that includes her husband Dan (John C. Rielly) and her 6-year-old son, Richie (Jack Rovello).

She is unfulfilled by her life, ideas that may have come from her recent reading of the Virginia Woolf novel “Mrs. Dalloway,” about an old woman reliving her life through thoughts, and then pondering the choices she made that could have been quite different.

The third woman’s story is that of the modern Clarissa Vaughan (Meryl Streep), who stops by daily to care for Richard Brown, a poet dying of AIDS, and also happens to be the son of Laura Brown, Julianne Moore’s character. Clarissa feels compelled to care for Richard because of her relationship with his lover and her former lover, Louis Waters (Jeff Daniels), but she doesn’t quite know why she does what she does.

The connections between these women is startling, as Woolf starts the story, Laura Brown reads her novel, and Clarissa provides care for the son of Laura Brown.

Cinematographer Seamus McGarvey captures the spirit of each era with his use of color, using dark tones for the ’20s; bright, unrealistic colors for the ’50s; and a modern design for the contmporary era. The editing is swift and allows us to go back and forth across time, showing the psychological bonds between the three women.

There also is a discreet lesbian motif, as the depressed Virginia Woolf kisses her sister Vanessa on the lips while Vanessa’s boy watches confusingly. This is contrasted by the kissing sisters Laura and Kitty (Toni Collette) and becomes the relationship of modern Clarissa and her live-in girlfriend, Sally (Allison Janney).

“The Hours” is a heart-tugging drama that won the Best Film award from the National Board of Review, and it deserves the praise. Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman and Julianne Moore transcend the art of acting to new hights, exploring the nature of humanity through their tortured feminine characters.

THE HOURS. Directed by Stephen Daldry. Screenplay by David Hare. With Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore and Nicole Kidman. Rated PG-13(language, mature themes), 115 minutes. Now playing at Bay Area theaters.

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