To say that I loved The Hours the first time I watched it would be a lie. I saw it when I was 14-years-old and I didn’t understand it at all. My pubescent brain couldn’t quite grasp the effects of depression, the effects of sacrifice and above all else, what “happiness” truly means.
It would be another ten years before I began to understand the film’s significance. I was floored by its honesty and transparency of the human condition. I was so deeply affected by it that I had “always the hours” tattooed on my ribs.
So let me try to explain why, at the age of 24, I walked into a tattoo parlor with my best friend, and said “ink this quote on me kind sir.”
The Hours, starring Julianne Moore (Still Alice), Nicole Kidman (Moulin Rouge) and Meryl Streep (Sophie’s Choice) focuses on the lives of three women in three different decades, in a single day of their lives. In that one day, their lives become clear to them, in the most devastating ways.
Virginia Woolf played by Kidman is writing Mrs Dalloway. Laura Brown played by Moore is a 1950s housewife reading Mrs Dalloway and Clarissa Vaughn played by Streep, is playing out the role of Mrs. Dallaway.
Each is teetering on the edge of depression with suicide affecting them all. As the hours tick by, they each become increasingly weighed down by the idea of what their lives should be. Their longing to make their lives more meaningful is heart-breaking and frustrating. Frustrating because they can’t find the happiness that they are looking for.
Director, Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot) beautifully dissects each of the women’s separate struggles but links them together through brilliant editing. Virginia, Laura and Clarissa are all fighting the same battle in their own decades. It gives an overwhelming feeling of universality that reaches across time.
So the burning question - out of all the quotes in all the films in the entire world, why did I choose a quote from The Hours?
Well, it shouldn’t be a spoiler to know that Virginia Woolf kills herself. In the movie her death plays out at the beginning and end of the film. Her suicide letter is narrated over the final scenes.
Dear Leonard. To look life in the face. Always look life in the face. And to know it for what it is. At last to know it. To love it for what it is, and then, to put it away. Leonard. Always the years between us. Always the years. Always the love. Always the hours.
This single quote made me live my life differently. I was no longer longing to be in a “state of happiness”. Instead, I was stopping to enjoy a moment of happiness, whenever it came along. By examining the lives of three different women and the hours in their day, the film transpired to find the meaning of life.
And for me, that meaning, is in the details. It is in the hours of the day. The hours I spend doing what I love. The hours I spend in pain. My day is not constant. It is fluid. It is forever changing. It is separated into moments and those moments make my life worth living. That is what this film does. It makes you look at your own life, for exactly what it is.
This stunning film made me want to write about it. I quit P.E School at University, and studied film instead. This film made me become a writer. And here I am, writing about film.
This is the life I have chosen. This is what I choose to do with my hours. What do you choose to do with yours?