"The hours" by Michael Cunningham.

Essay by blondeambition98 October 2003

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The ripples of influence wash forward in time. From the ravaged, brilliant mind of Virginia Woolf in 1923, to the printed page in 1925, to the young, timid, unsteady hands of a California housewife in the 1950s, to the thoroughly modern, hardened eyes of a New York City businesswoman. Three women whose lives are mysteriously linked by the printed page, but also by shared thoughts and passions. Three stories bound tightly together--eventually--on the screen, as inspired by Michael Cunningham's 1998 novel, The Hours, which was in turn inspired by Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway.

The film opens with Virginia Woolf's 1941 suicide. She places stones in her pockets and wades calmly into the river, letting the rushing water engulf her fragile body and battered soul. Eighteen years earlier, she is already struggling with her sanity. She hears voices. She succumbs to "moods." And she writes furiously. At the moment, she's writing Mrs. Dalloway. Her husband, Leonard, has removed her from the oppressiveness of city life in London and taken her to Richmond, a quiet suburb. He believes the solitude will save his wife's life. She despises it, and sinks deeper into the world she's created in her head: Mrs. Dalloway's world.

Sheltered under the towering palms of post-WWII Los Angeles, Laura Brown has also submerged herself into Mrs. Dalloway's world. She turns the pages of the book eagerly, breathlessly. It's the only thing about her life that's exciting, she feels. She's the wife of a proud and adoring husband. She's the mother of a gentle young boy. She's four months pregnant. And she's depressed to the point of collapse. Even baking a simple cake for her husband's birthday is a monumental task. So she slowly surrenders to the words of Virginia Woolf.

A half-century...