Based on Michael Cunningham’s novel The Hours, the dramatic film story focuses on one day in the life of three women who are on the verge of a nervous breakdown, acutely feeling lonely, desperate, and deeply depressed. They are separated in time by tens of years, located in different cities located hundreds of miles apart, but united by one line from the novel “Mrs. Dalloway” by the famous British writer Virginia Woolf.
This coincidence weaves three separate threads of the narrative into one bizarre and at the same time amazing plot tangle of almost mystical nature: the fates of all three heroines, with all their temporal and spatial differences, turn out to be almost identical.
Each women’s story, filmed by director Stephen Daldry, is limited to one day: it begins with the awakening of the heroine at the morning alarm clock and ends in the late evening.
England, Essex, 1923. Writer Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman), barely awake, descends into the living room. Despite urgent requests, she refuses breakfast, returns upstairs and writes down the first line of the novel “Mrs. Dalloway” she has just invented. In front of the viewer is a woman oppressed by constant depression and quietly going crazy. Realizing her worthlessness and powerless to change something, Virginia is full of hopelessness and fatigue, she is often visited by thoughts of a voluntary departure from life. The servants quietly laugh at the writer, who lives in the fictional world of her stories, and the husband tries to protect his wife from herself.
America, Los Angeles, 1951. Housewife Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) has a special day today – her husband’s name day. On a solemn occasion, you need to bake a cake, do your hair, suit the outfit, take care of your well-being (she is in her fourth month of pregnancy). You can’t avoid the daily worries about your son Richard, the hassle of maintaining order in your ideal mansion. Laura suffers from this measured and boring life, she wants to escape from the closed world of post-war one-story America. But no change is expected. And the woman falls into a deep depression. While her unloved husband is at work, Laura picks up a book by Virginia Woolf, under the influence of which on that very day she attempts suicide.
America, New York, 2001. Glossy magazine editor and successful businesswoman Clarissa Vaughn (Meryl Streep) decides to dedicate this day to preparing a gala reception in honor of her old friend. The talented writer received an award for his contribution to literature. This is his only lifetime award. Forgotten and unwanted, he retired to his small apartment and is dying of AIDS. Clarissa, who at the time of their romantic heterosexual relationship, Richard called the name of the main character of the novel “Mrs. Dalloway”, becomes a witness to his death. A woman pronounces a line from a Virginia Woolf book as if it were a completely ordinary phrase. And deep down, she suffers, realizing her own powerlessness in the face of the terminal stage of the disease and the despair of the once beloved person.
Two hours of The Hours screen time is just one day lived by three different women in three different cities and three different eras. Unfortunately, this day turned out to be more bad than good:
Virginia realizes that the best thing that could happen to her has already happened, and is tormented by the consciousness of her own worthlessness. Voluntary death looks to her as the logical finale of life. When the book is finished, it must be completed. Laura does not have a personal life. In pursuit of her dream, she leaves her husband and children. But she never finds a new life, where she is her own mistress. Clarissa may well live not the way she wants, but the way she should. It seems that everything is in order with her: there is an ardent lover and a caring daughter. But she needs something else to be happy! It is full of memories of fleeting love. And dreams of everything being the same as before, when Richard was alive.
The movie “The Clock” shows three possible ways out of this situation:
Following the example of Clarissa Vaughn, obediently bear the burden of obligations, abandon the present in favor of conventions. Like Laura Brown, rush into the unknown, destroy your measured and prosperous life, not being afraid of the stigma of a mother who abandoned her two children, and the condemnation of a wife who betrayed her loving husband. Like Virginia Woolf, just put a symbolic period at the end of your novel. Desperate and seeing no other way out, the writer finally decided to end her relationship with society: she stuffed her coat pockets with stones and drowned herself in the river. She lost the disease, but tried to retain the right to choose between life and death.
The film “The Hours” is about loneliness and lack of freedom, about the lack of the right to choose and the despair of a person who seeks and does not find happiness. About wanting to live your own life, not the one that was chosen for you. The fact that a person is not given to know and understand what is best for others. About why it is more difficult to figure out one’s own fate than someone else’s. And how many hours of our lives it takes just to understand ourselves.