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The Hours

Recently my friend Tom and I had a discussion about the best films that show depression well.  I have a short list.

  1. Pi – Depression and mania populate this odd and disturbing Darren Aronofsky film.
  2. Mary and Max – Depression, Anxiety Disorders, Aspergers all shown so beautifully in this partially true claymation story about accidental pen pals.
  3. The Hours – Depression, See Below.
  4. Little Miss Sunshine – Seriously  Michael Scott  Steve Carell looks so weary and done with the world at the beginning it almost breaks my heart

The Hours is in my DVD library, and I am always astounded by it.

I was caught in the very beginning by the way the three stories are cut together over the repetitive and haunting Phillip Glass soundtrack. The piece is edited in such a way that you see these profound connections between the three streams before you even know how they are intertwined.  Flash from one person lying down on their side, to another waking up in the same position. Flowers put on the hall table, to flowers in another story.  Without telling you the whole story it is difficult to tell you just how this happens.  You should watch it.  It is well worth it.

The three streams come from different periods in time.  One is Virginia Wolfe, struggling with her crippling depression outside of the city of London. She’s played well here by Nicole Kidman, who doesn’t seem to mind becoming dowdy at all.  She looses her elegance, and pulls off a woman weighted down from the inside. She is beginning her last novel, Mrs. Dalloway.  Clarissa, Meryl Streep’s character, is a modern woman planning an epic party.  Her life, without her really embracing it, seems to be the very echo of the novel Wolfe is writing.  The third story is Julianna Moore’s character Laura, a 50’s era housewife pregnant with her 2nd child, and feeling life close in around her.

There is a nuanced conversation about life and sexuality in this movie.  It makes me want to go back and read the book to see if this is meant to be a current, or if was a liberty taken by the director.  Regardless, this movie is populated by a variety of seasoned and excellent actors and actresses.  Each does their part to hold taut the tension lines of the film.  Ed Harris’s haunting gaze from a disease riddled face so closely mimics the howling pain you see in the face of Laura’s 5 yr old boy, trying desperately to hold on to his mother as she slips from him.  It’s breathtaking to see that raw pain.  Every single time the conversation, between Virginia Wolfe and her husband, on the train platform catches me.  It reminds me of conversations I had with my mother, as she struggled so hard against the disease in her mind that took her hope from her.

I actually did take the time to learn the Phillip Glass pieces from this  movie.  Some time ask me, and I will play you into melancholy. Then we can watch this movie.  So good, but so very sad.

Florence and the Machine wrote a song about Virginia Wolfe and her opening act in this movie, filling her pockets with rocks, and walking into the river to end it all. It is called “What the Water Gave Me”. I’ll leave you with it today.  I’d say enjoy…but somehow that’s the wrong phrase.  Perhaps, let it get under your skin.  That’s what it, and this movie do to me.


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