Stephen Daldry’s film adaptation of Michael Cunningham’s novel “The Hours” effectively points out the extremely apparent connection of three women of different generations. The first woman to be introduced was Virginia Woolf, played by Nicole Kidman, a British writer struggling with a mental illness which ultimately led to her to commit suicide. Then there is Laura Brown, played by Julianne Moore, a warm and considerate mother who felt bored with the role of being a typical mother. Lastly, Clarissa Vaughan, played by Meryl Streep, was a lesbian publisher who was tending to her former lover and friend, Richard, an AIDS-stricken poet.
The lives of these three women are alternately presented in the film to produce three different lives but similar emotional conflicts. It is noticeable that every character’s action reflects the other 2 women in the film. Virginia Woolf’s novel, Mrs. Dalloway, serves as the principal nexus of these three women which ultimately connects them with each other. This book played a major role in the development of the story in the film. Every event in the lives of these women seemed to be related to the plot of the film.
The novel’s principal role of connecting the women is initially depicted on the earlier scenes of the film. It was in 1923 when Woolf starts the prologue of Mrs. Dalloway saying the words, “Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself” (Daldry). After this scene, Laura Brown is shown reading aloud the same sentence from the opening of the novel. Subsequently, Clarissa Vaughan is seen calling out to Sally Lester (Allison Janney) saying, “I think I’ll buy the flowers myself.” Woolf is the writer, Brown is the reader and Vaughan is the subject of the entire story. This is also emphasized in the nickname that Richard gave Clarissa—Mrs. Dalloway.
The themes of suicide, gender identity and boredom are all evident in this film as the three major characters went through the ordeal of these issues. Virginia Woolf’s mental perception that she is merely living an ordinary life drives her to leave and escape the boredom she is experiencing such as the case with Laura Brown. Brown is suicidal despite the seemingly perfect family that she has. She has a loving husband and a beautiful son who both love her dearly but the restrictions motherhood whose main responsibility is to tend to her family’s needs made her doubt herself as a good mother. She wishes to escape that dull and boring life by reading Mrs. Dalloway. On the other hand, Clarissa Vaughan experiences an emotional confusion between her feelings towards her former lover and friend Richard who later committed suicide too.
It is also noticeable that identity crisis manifests in the characters of the three women as they all have incidents of kissing women. Woolf and Brown did it out of impulsiveness and seemingly aloofness from their husbands while Clarissa, a lesbian who has been living with her partner for a decade, wonders if she is still in love with Richard.
The film obviously has a great deal of connection to Virginia Woolf as all the themes presented in the film are the issues that the real Virginia Woolf had encountered in her lifetime. The film constitutes three different women with three different stories but in general view, the filmmakers are able to produce a unified and consistent plot which strengthened the relationship of these women.
The Hours. Dir. Stephen Daldry. Perf. Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep. United States of America: Paramount Pictures and Miramax Films, 2002.