The Hours is a 2002 drama film directed by Stephen Daldry, and starring Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore and Ed Harris. The screenplay by David Hare is based on the 1999 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same title by Michael Cunningham.
The plot focuses on three women of different generations whose lives are interconnected by the novel Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. These are Clarissa Vaughan (Streep), a New Yorker preparing an award party for her AIDS-stricken long-time friend and poet, Richard (Harris) in 2001; Laura Brown (Moore), a pregnant 1950s California housewife with a young boy and an unhappy marriage; and Virginia Woolf herself (Kidman) in 1920s England, who is struggling with depression and mental illness whilst trying to write her novel.
The film was released in Los Angeles and New York City on Christmas Day 2002, and was given a limited release in the US and Canada two days later on December 27, 2002. It did not receive a wide release in the US until January 2003, and was then released in UK cinemas on Valentine's Day that year. Critical reaction to the film was mostly positive, with nine Academy Award nominations for The Hours including Best Picture, and a win for Nicole Kidman as Best Actress.
With the exception of the opening and final scenes, which depict the 1941 suicide by drowning of Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman) in the River Ouse, the action takes place within the span of a single day in three different years, and alternates among them throughout the film. In 1923, renowned author Woolf has begun writing the book Mrs Dalloway in her home in the town of Richmond outside London. In 1951, troubled Los Angeles housewife Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) escapes from her conventional life by reading Mrs Dalloway. In 2001, New Yorker Clarissa Vaughan (Meryl Streep) is the embodiment of the title character of Mrs Dalloway as she spends the day preparing for a party she is hosting in honor of her former lover and friend Richard (Ed Harris), a poet and author living with AIDS who is to receive an award for career achievement. Richard tells Clarissa he has stayed alive for her sake, and the award is meaningless because he didn't get it sooner, until he was on the brink of death. She tells him she believes he would have won the award regardless of his illness. Richard often refers to Clarissa as "Mrs. Dalloway", due to her distracting herself from her own life and self the way the Woolf character did.
Virginia, who has experienced several nervous breakdowns and suffers from bipolar disorder, feels trapped in her home, intimidated by servants and constantly under the eye of her husband Leonard (Stephen Dillane) who has begun a publishing business, Hogarth Press, at home to stay close to her. Woolf both welcomes and dreads an afternoon visit from her sister Vanessa (Miranda Richardson) and her children. After their departure, Virginia flees to the railway station where she is awaiting a train to central London when Leonard arrives to bring her home. He tells her how he lives in constant fear that she will take her own life. She says she fears it also, but argues that if she is to live she has the right to decide how, and where, as much as any other.