Writer David Hare and director Stephen Daldry have transformed Michael Cunningham’s intricate novel into a film of fluidity and emotion.Book and film set up echoes between Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman) writing “Mrs Dalloway” in 1923 England with Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) reading it in California in the late 1940s and Clarissa Vaughan (Meryl Streep) unwittingly acting it out in 2001 New York. On screen, the material risks literary preciousness. It also seems much heavier than in the book, since the strongest themes are depression and suicide.
But there are benefits in the cinematic transference. Daldry and editor Peter Boyle effect neat links among the stories more easily than Cunningham could on paper. Daldry cleverly marks the passing of time during this day-in-the-life that spans three disparate eras. There are also pleasurable visual parallels between the episodes. Simple acts like preparing food or taking off a pair of shoes have an unexpected resonance. Philip Glass’s score smoothes over the cracks so seamlessly that single scenes sometimes seem composed of different time periods.Besides stunning work from the three leads, Ed Harris is unforgettable. The emotional climax of The Hours is his. Toni Collette is particularly vivid among the high-class supporting cast, which includes Jeff Daniels, Claire Danes, Thomas C Reilly and Miranda Richardson.