The Hours (2002)
I was aware of this film for quite some time, knowing that there was a connection between three women who live very different lives at first. However the more you delve into The Hours (2002) strong similarities start to become apparent in this strong piece of film-making. There aren’t many films that can have a decent plot that moves between different time periods, as we have seen with Cloud Atlas (2012) which needs another look to truly understand what is going on. Maybe it’s a case of keeping things a little simpler and building on that.
Set in three different periods, focusing on three women, connected through Virginia Woolf‘s (Nicole Kidman) book Mrs Dalloway, which was being written around 1925, whilst Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) is reading the book in 1951. Jumping forward to the then present day 2001 with Clarissa Vaughan (Meryl Streep). At first the connections are more based on coincidence, which is nothing really when on film, it’s a carefully constructed world where we know that the ties that bind these women will become strong and wrapped up at the end of the film.
Spending one day with these women is all we need really to understand how complex their lives really are from Woolf the author struggling to start her book which forms the basis for the film, battling against her mental health issues that continually plague her and her illicit affair with Vanessa Bell (Miranda Richardson), there are lesbian elements in all three women’s lives, this is immaterial really when you see what they go through over the course of the film. Dealing with the pressures of their lives up to day, the housewife who hides her shame, unable to function as a parent and wife to her family. Whilst Clarissa is confronted with the pressure of setting up a party for her ex-lover’s award ceremony. Richard Brown (Ed Harris) living with Aids and his own mental health problems, a solitary and expressive man who has all but given up on life. Today becomes too much for him, before he receives the highest possible honour in his profession, what more is there for him to achieve. At this point I hadn’t made the connection between the present day and the 1950’s where we find Laura about to commit suicide. It’s her feelings of obligation and love for her son that make her change her mind.
You could say they are all the same person,spread-out throughout the 20th century, coping with the pressures of life, all coping with it in different ways, All very modern, even in their time, two repressed by society. It can be a heavy film, having to concentrate as it moves from time to time during the film. The material is anything but light, discussing what is to be alive, the point of living. I was blown away by Kidman’s performance, lost under the make-up and accent which created a whole new person for us to engage with. Whilst Moore is equally as good, Streep us just Streep on top form as always. I would be doing both Ed Harris and Jeff Daniels as disservice not to mention their acting here also. The pressure is on these actors to give us something great, heavy and dramatic which requires all your attention.
This is a rarity today which should be celebrated, easily passing the Bechdel Test it doesn’t just include women, The Hours puts them at the centre, showing too that a female heavy cast can be just as engaging, the men are shown to be emotional and strong, even on the sidelines of these women. There are probably connections I have yet to make after one viewing, you could just say it’s down to coincidence, through the passage of time the power of one book has transcended three generations, we are seeing the effect first hand.
- The Hours: A Review (from a psychological point of view) (168seconds.wordpress.com)
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