Movie Review: The Hours

The Hours is one of Stephen Daldry’s many master pieces after winning the Tony Awards for best director of a musical for Billy Elliot. Given a pattern of multiple book adaptations, The Hours is no exception. It is based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel of 1999, The Hours by Michael Cunningham. Daldry honors Cunningham’s brilliance by employing one of the best music composers of his time, casting academy-winning actors, and directing a story that one continues to reminiscence years after watching the movie. Daldry grew up to study English, was trained as an actor, managed a production company, and came to direct movies. As a result, most of his works are a reflection of his varied interest in art, life, and literature. 

As such, The Hours is a perfect example. It comprises of a set of complex characters: lesbians, an isolated HIV positive bisexual, a post world war veteran, and a depressed woman in rural England. And in this manner, the film revolves around the lives of three different women set against different time periods. 

It is the beginning of the 21st century in New York City, and a woman called Clarissa Vaughan played by Meryl Streep is looking forward to give this ‘wonderful party’ for her friend Richard. Richard is HIV positive and he is in ways a reminder of what life was like for most gay men post the ‘Gay Plague’ in America. As the movie descends, viewers gradually understand that Clarissa, too, lives in fear and anxiety. On the other coast, it is 1945, post-world war, and middle class America is booming. Set against the suburbs of California, the peculiar wife, Laura Brown played by  Julianne Moore is trying to find deeper meaning in her life. The real question lies: will she look for it or will it come to her?

Meanwhile, we are taken back in time in rural London, in 1923 where Virginia Woolf belongs to an upper-middle class society suffering from depression. Leonard, Woolf’s spouse is an idle husband: strong, loveable, and he doesn't seem to control her life style too much. Despite that, she spends her days avoiding any intimate contact with him, has little interest for food, or life in general. Viewers soon realize that she is seriously ill and the only way to put an end to her madness is to welcome the inevitable, death.

The Hours is a uniquely dangerous movie for its time as it gets personal; and reveals too much about women, mental health, and the gays and lesbians of their generation.