“Always giving parties to cover the silence,” Depression in ‘The Hours’.
Based on the 1999 Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Michael Cunningham, The Hours is a 2002 film staring Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, and Julianne Moore.
The film is set in three different locations and years, with three different women living their lives. Clarissa, played by Streep, is living in New York City in 2001. Laura, played by Moore is living in Los Angeles in 1951. And lastly, Virginia, played by Kidman is living in England in 1923. All three women’s lives are connected by the novel Mrs. Dalloway, written by Virginia Woolf.
The film, which mostly depicts just one day in the lives of all three women, has a major common theme of depression throughout. Two characters, Virginia and Richard, commit suicide and Laura also recurring thoughts of suicide throughout her day. Although Clarissa did not exhibit any suicidal thoughts, it is easy to tell that she is going through a lot of pain.
From start to finish, there are many symptoms of depression displayed by the characters. At times, all three women are shown laying in bed, with a striking sense of grief and melancholy. Added heavily by the music in the film, there is an extreme feeling of sadness in the film. Other signs that appear during the film are extremes in emotion, irritability, and a general sense of frustration and the desire to be left alone. Suicide is also a main theme.
Virginia is a writer in England in the 1920’s. It is mentioned in the film that she has tried to commit suicide twice before, and she eventually succeeds in her third attempt at the end of the film. During the movie, Virginia is portrayed mostly alone working on her writing, and always with a sad feeling surrounding her. Her history of depression and suicide is known by those around her, and everyone seems to tread pretty lightly because of it. Virginia makes it very clear during the film, that while other people might sympathize with her, no one knows what she is going through. This appears to be a very common aspect of depression. Towards the end of the film, Virginia mentions to her husband, “Only I can understand my own condition.” A very powerful statement.
For the pregnant Laura, her day is spent with her young boy at their home in Los Angeles. Although she has the company of her son, and for a brief moment an acquaintance who stops by, the viewer can tell that Laura is very much alone in the world. She appears extremely sad, and seems to just “get by” with her day, rather than actually living it. At one point in the film, Laura drops her son off with a friend and heads to a hotel, where she contemplates suicide. At the end of the film, an elderly Laura and the middle-aged Clarissa meet each other in New York City, and the film very much comes full-circle.
Like the other two women, Clarissa does not appear to be in a good place. Although she tries not to show her sadness and depression, it is quite apparent that she is experiencing something. During her day, Clarissa is planning a party for her friend Richard, an AIDS patient who also is deeply depressed. Richard eventually commits suicide before the party, in the presence of Clarissa, seemingly his only friend in the world. Unlike the other two women, who did not really have any friends in the world, Clarissa was surrounded by people during her day. A key sign that depression can be affecting anybody.
The Hours seems to have portrayed depression quite well, and would be a beneficial film to anyone interested in the subject.