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USA 2002
Directed by
Stephen Daldry
114 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Ruth Williams
4 stars


Synopsis: The lives of three compromised women are intertwined, contrasted and compared over the course of one day - an author, Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman) in 1921, Laura Brown (Julianne Moore), a lonely housewife whose story is set in 1951, and Clarissa Vaughan (Meryl Streep), an editor living in present day New York.

The title of Stephen Daldry's film is based on the working title for Woolf’s novel, Mrs Dalloway. It refers to the idea that life is lived in the hours of each day, and that it is how we choose to inhabit these hours that determines our fate.

Of course, not all women will relate to the problematic worlds of the three protagonists but on the other hand there will be men who will see their lives reflected in these stories. One of the dilemmas of adapting novels for the screen has often been, how to take what is often essentially an internal dialogue and turn it into something that will take full advantage of a medium which relies on telling a story through what a character does rather than what they are thinking or feeling, Stephen Daldry (director) and David Hare (writer) have managed to combine their skills with great eloquence to resolve this disharmony.

Nicole Kidman won herself a Best Actor Oscar for her portrayal of the English writer, Virginia Woolf, but Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore are more than persuasive in their depiction of the complex women they portray. David Hare chose not to use voice-over as a solution to revealing the inner world of the three women. He also did not want to resort to flash-backs to re-create the different time frames. What he relies on is the ability of the actors to show the way in which they respond to their respective worlds, whether this is in a downward glance or an empty smile. It doesn’t take long to sense that all is not well.

Initially, as the three stories begin to unfold, I wasn’t sure whether the film-makers would be able to create a structure that would allow the audience to become immersed in each story. It wasn’t long before I had completely forgotten such concerns and soon found the intercutting between stories no more confusing than following the different storylines of any television series. With the issues of depression, alienation and suicide being explored in The Hours, the result could have been overly morbid. However, one is left more with a feeling of having had a glimpse into just some of the many varied ways in which we humans cope with this thing we call life. My interest has been aroused. As I'm sure will many who see this film I’m going out to buy a copy of Mrs Dalloway as well as Michael Cunningham’s novel, The Hours. Who needs product placement with such effective built-in merchandising!




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