Film Review: The Hours (2012)

“I seem to have fallen out of time”

Based on Michael Cunningham’s novel of the same name, I loved 2012 film The Hours from the first time I saw it and still think it a minor masterpiece a three women, each connected by Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, try to get through the living of a single day. In the present day, Meryl Streep plays Clarissa Vaughan, a NY society hostess planning a party for her AIDS-stricken poet friend; Julianne Moore plays Laura Brown, a depressed 1950s housewife, unhappily married and pregnant for the second time; and Nicole Kidman plays Woolf herself, battling her own demons whilst writing the book.

From David Hare’s screenplay, Stephen Daldry creates a hugely elegant sweep across time as echoes ripple across the separate narratives – connections built through the smallest of details recurring as each woman variously deals with repressed longing, the fear of a life not lived to its fullest, the hours that keep on passing. Kidman (and her prosthetic nose) may have won the Academy Award and she is very good but for my money, it is Moore’s anguished housewife who should have won the plaudits, such is the intensity she brings to the role. 

Each strand is further enhanced by luxurious casting for every single character. Stephen Dillane brings deep compassion to the long-suffering Leonard Woolf whilst Miranda Richardson as her sister Vanessa is achingly good, exasperated and empathetic in the same breath and in their household, Linda Bassett as a fearsomely redoubtable cook assisted by Lyndsey Marshal’s maid are great value for money. John C Reilly and a vibrant Toni Collette flesh out the 1950s cast with real quality, along with the impossibly soulful eyes of six year old Jack Rovello.

And in 2001, Allison Janney and Claire Danes’ brief appearances as lover and daughter of Clarissa are both keenly felt, alongside a cameo from the glorious Eileen Atkins as a florist. The strength of the cast is supported by Philip Glass’ score, a stunning piece of original composition that spreads its gossamer-like web over the whole film, providing connective tissue between the separate narratives and somehow deepening the elegiac grace of already powerful scenes. Some may find it intrusive but for me, it is as essential part of the film as one of the lead actors themselves. Simply beautiful. 

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