The Hours
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This film is remarkable in so many ways that it almost overwhelms you as a moviegoer. From the tricky weave of narrative strands to the knock-out performances, this is a beautifully realised film featuring themes that get way beneath the skin. It's about three women struggling with their mortality and their place in the world. In 1923 London, Virginia Woolf (Kidman) is writing her novel Mrs Dalloway while contemplating her marriage to Leonard (Dillane) and her friendship with Vanessa Bell (Richardson). In 1941 Los Angeles, housewife Laura (Moore) is reading Mrs Dalloway and struggling with her place in the world, her marriage to Dan (Reilly), her friendship with Kitty (Collette) and motherhood to Richie (Rovello). And in 2001 New York, Clarissa (Streep) is just like Mrs Dalloway, stressed about her relationship to Sally (Janney) as she plans a party for her fragile friend Richard (Harris). How will they get through the hours of the day?

While it sounds like a treatise on the plight of women in the 20th century, the film isn't like that at all. It's actually much more universal than that, tapping into ideas and feelings everyone shares--about where we fit into the world, the good and bad compromises we make, the key moments in which we make life-changing decisions. Every single cast member delivers a stunningly powerful performance, and as they meet and interact, each scene generates almost overwhelming emotional energy. It's impossible to pick a standout; even the side characters are played with revealing transparency. Daldry directs it sharply and cleverly, building parallels between the periods and the characters. Sometimes it's a bit too clever and tidy, but the raw feelings are so real that it doesn't matter. There's a sweeping arc to the overall plot that is delicately handled in the details of each character and situation. Richly layered with meaning, this isn't an obtuse art film either. It's a forceful examination of the strains of the personality against society's pressures, about expectations and disappointments, about finding the strength not only to go on but also to see real joy in everyday life. This is one of those rare films that satisfies both technically (expert editing, astonishing makeup, gorgeous production design) and artistically (intricate script, impeccable acting, insightful direction, lush music) ... and has the power to move you profoundly.

cert 12 themes, language 9.Jan.03

dir Stephen Daldry
scr David Hare
with Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep, Ed Harris, Miranda Richardson, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, John C Reilly, Stephen Dillane, Jack Rovello, Claire Danes, Jeff Daniels
release US 27.Dec.02;UK 14.Feb.03
02/UK 1h54

Who's afraid? Virginia Woolf (Kidman) contemplates just about everything about her life and work....

moore streep harris

22nd Shadows Awards 22nd SHADOWS AWARDS

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... IndigoJen, Los Angeles: "Wow. Now I need to re-watch Mrs Dalloway! I'm torn as to which actress had the strongest performance. Meryl is the master, but we all knew that already. And expect it. Nicole and Julianne had more of a breakthrough opportunity. It's interesting that About Schmidt just left me depressed about society and the human condition, while The Hours, which begins and ends with a suicide, left me intrigued. Fascinated even." (27.Jan.03)

the hours Cornellius Willliams, Cornwall: 4 out of 5 stars "Ooh very snazzy! Eileen Atkins stole the show!" (3.Oct.03)

Robert, New York: 5/5 "A powerful masterpiece, directed by theatre master Stephen Daldry. It stars three of the best, most diverse and accomplished actresses of our time: Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore. Moore, in my opinion, gives the best performance of the film. Also, it has the distinction of showcasing the finest ensemble cast of the year (including Ed Harris, Stephen Dillane, Allison Janney, Claire Danes, Jeff Daniels, Miranda Richardson, Eileen Atkins, Toni Collette and newcomer Jack Rovello). Based on Michael Cunningham's brilliant novel (which happens to be one of my favorites), and the haunting screenplay is written by David Hare. I was amazed by every minute of this glorious film." (14.Nov.04) the hours

joe, mexico: 5/5 "Many people in mexico left the theater depressed, and thats because they simply didnt get it. This is the best moviegoing experience in my life. Besides, it has changed it. It is perfect in any way: cinematography, score, acting, direction, make up, production design, everything. It is simply the reason i go to the movies - to be moved, impressed and leave the theater with the satisfaction of knowing i've seen one of the best movies ever made." (5.Dec.04)

2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall