25 December, 2002
(Based on ‘The Hours’ by Michael Cunningham)
Summary: ‘The Hours’ focuses around the lives of three women and the significance of Virginia Woolf’s ‘Mrs Dalloway’. The first woman is Woolf herself, who is attempting to write a first draft of the novel, while battling her feelings of depression. The second is a housewife, Laura Brown, living in 1940s Los Angeles – who believes she is far from adequate. ‘Mrs Dalloway’ drives Brown to reconsider the life she is leading. Finally, Clarissa Vaughan is living in modern-day New York, caring for her former lover who is dying of Aids – Richard Brown. Vaughan is throwing a party for Brown in recognition of his recent poetry prize, echoing the character of Clarissa Dalloway. All three women must confront their inner demons and deal with a form of suicide in their lives.
My Favourite Scene: A particularly memorable scene for me, was when Virginia’s sister’s children find a dead bird and decide to make it a grave for fun. Angelica is left behind and stays talking with Virginia. She questions her on death and what follows it. Virginia seems to recognise a similarity between her niece and herself - with Angelica saying ‘I don’t remember where I came from’ and Virginia replying ‘Nor do I’. After Angelica leaves with the others, Virginia remains a little while longer, laying down on the earth next to the bird.
The pair, although many years apart, seem to share a similar outlook on life in the moments they spend together with the dead bird. Angelica concludes that it looks very peaceful, and this portrays a side to the child, absent from her siblings. Although it would just be curiosity to ask the innocent questions Angelica does about death, she seems to reflect upon the event differently to the others. The connection between the two is rather touching and is clarified when Virginia’s sister says ‘Are we finished? Is the bird funeral complete?’. She simply does not reflect on issues in the same way her sister and daughter do. Although it isolates the pair, their world also appears a calm and interesting one - in comparison to those around them.
My Favourite Quotes:
Clarissa Vaughan: You don’t have to go to the party, you don’t have to go to the ceremony, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. You can do as you like.
Richard Brown: but I still have to face the hours, don’t I? I mean, the hours after the party, and the hours after that…
Virginia Woolf (to her sister who has arrived early): Leonard thinks it’s the end of civilization: People who are invited at 4 and arrive at 2:30.
Virginia Woolf: You cannot find peace by avoiding life, Leonard.
My Thoughts: I liked the way Daldry interweaved the three lives, showing the connections between them. The film reflected, not only the importance of Woolf’s work, but that the feelings of isolation are apparent in every time period and generation.
A criticism I would have of the film was of the relationship between Laura Brown and her young son. There were a couple of moments in their scenes when he seemed to be understanding of her suicidal state of mind – violently screaming when she leaves him to drive away alone, and proving her with comfort when she seems upset. While this made for a seemingly strong relationship in the film, I do not think that a boy of his age would have been able to notice the subtleties of her behaviour. I thought this element to the film was quite unrealistic.
I felt that overall ‘The Hours’ was a moving and interesting film. I was especially impressed with the script, which offered some very memorable thoughts and provided a powerful insight into the mind of Virginia Woolf. The film has been criticised for its being dark and depressing. However depression and suicide are the important, recurring themes in the film - and it is difficult to see how it could be changed. In some ways, there is a comforting message in the similarities in the three separate lives because it illustrates a connection between them - although they are alone in their own lives, they are together in their emotional state.