It is impossible for me to put a pin on the label of ‘favourite film’, but there is one that surprised me fully in its existence. The Hours, directed by Stephen Daldry is a film that did not go unnoticed, but neither do I see it embraced into popular culture. With a riveting cast at the height of their powers, a director who danced the film through time and space, and a script and score that held the film in a firm spot of enchantment, it was immediately one that felt uniquely made for me.
The film follows three women through a single day. Simple enough, but the women in question start with the famed writer Virginia Woolf in the 1920s, played with electric melancholy by Nicole Kidman. This is followed by oh-so-pretty Laura Brown; Julianne Moore’s voice never loses an ethereal note nor does it open up fully in freedom in the 1950s. Finally, we lay the film into the hands of Meryl Streep in the 2000s who grants us, Clarissa, from the script and simultaneously turns her into Mrs. Dalloway from Virginia’s book. There is no misplaced actor or underwhelming performance in the film. Alongside the women, Ed Harris who has the kind of screen time that warranted an Oscar nomination, wrenches open ideas of regret, love, and pain.
He and the other actors are aided by Philip Glass who creates a score that rightfully seems to suspend gravity. From the first frames of the film, the score promises a story that floats above the real world, tethered only by the weight of emotions. It is music that wraps intimately with the characters and the story, and cannot go unnoticed.
The movie is poetry that ripples, with metaphors and symbols that wade through the film. There are more flowers and books than you could know what to do with, and there is always something to be discovered that you missed on a previous watch. A cake that serves as a suicide note, an elevator with an opening in the ceiling, a cigarette, and a bird funeral. Water takes many forms through the film, sexuality runs fluid- explored and restrained, while death lingers throughout. And always, there is Mrs. Dalloway. The story takes you through time, spaces, and these women’s minds, demonstrating skilfully how even in fragments, it is possible to create full characters with dimensional lives.
The film gives us questions to ask. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could stay alive simply for other people? What would it be like to be that other person they stayed alive for? What really is the nature of happiness? Could regret be what kills us, or the way surviving repeatedly breaks us apart? What is it to choose life?
The film does not try to explain things to its viewer at any point, rather it allows one to experience poetry in the form of cinema. To pause, to relive, unpack and deconstruct what the frames are trying to say. The Hours is a film that asks the viewer to imbibe, to return but mostly, to persevere.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.