Plot: The story of how the novel ‘Mrs. Dalloway’ affects three generations of women, all of whom, in one way or another, have had to deal with suicide in their lives.
When people would ask me what my favourite film was, I would always answer ‘The Hours’. I first watched it as a teen and then watched it again and again and again. Obviously Avril and Ashlee weren’t enough of a vessel for my teen angst. ‘What a treat!’, I thought to myself as I planned to watch it again on Friday, for the first time in at least five years.
I had invited a friend over to watch with me. She was keen to get in on the Meryl marathon and also had a passing interest in Virginia Woolf; she had once acted out her name in a rousing game of Articulate by pointing to her groin and making a bestial growl.
The film started and the familiar Philip Glass soundtrack began playing. There were quite a few points where my friend asked me to pause the film to ask why things were happening on screen.
“Oh, it’s because she’s severely depressed.”
“Ah, it’s cause she’s thinking about killing herself later.”
“She’s crying because she has realised is happiness is something that only exists in her memories.”
I had forgotten how bloody bleak this film is (and in hindsight, perhaps not the best film to start your weekend with). We ended the night by promising each other to keep away from rivers while feeling morose, especially important considering the River Ouse where Virginia drowned herself is a mere 30 minute drive from my house.
I remember one morning getting up at dawn, there was such a sense of possibility. You know, that feeling? And I remember thinking to myself: So, this is the beginning of happiness. This is where it starts. And of course there will always be more. It never occurred to me it wasn’t the beginning. It was happiness. It was the moment. Right then.
– Clarissa Vaughn
Meryl plays New York City dwelling Clarissa Vaughn, a modern day Mrs. Dalloway, with Julianne Moore as 50s housewife Laura Brown and Nicole Kidman as Woolf herself, pretty much my dream team of actresses. It also was the platform for Nicole’s Best Actress Oscar win, allowing her to spend the subsequent years tackling meaty roles in The Stepford Wives and Bewitched. The film was unsurprisingly a hit with critics, although Tony Medley’s 0/10 review of the film is a must read:
‘Let’s start out by being truthful. This is a movie about three lesbians, not suicide, which is what I thought going in. Not your run of the mill lesbians, either. This is in-your-face lesbianism.’
They should include that warning on the DVD case. The way the three strands of the storyline are interwoven on screen is expertly done, especially taking into account the freedom of 200+pages had to be condensed into a two hour film. Having just finished reading the novel, the film still feels complete, but now with an extra insight supplied by the original text. An absolute favourite.