TWO STARS - DEPRESSING
One of the most painful of all emotional illnesses is depression. Draining the very life from its sufferers as they nevertheless attempt to fill the hours of the day, depression can become unbearable both for the individual and their family. Looking for escape, the options are few. A change of scenery, putting on a front, keeping busy, even throwing a party - these activities only accentuate the truth that nothing offers a permanent reprieve. Often, the only choice that is left seems to be suicide. This was the choice of Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman).
Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Michael Cunningham, “The Hours” is a depressing film as it authentically allows us to experience the dark despair of clinical depression.
Masterfully weaving together three depressed lives, the connecting thread is the novel by Virginia Woolf named “Mrs. Dalloway.”
The first life is that of Virginia herself living in England in the 1920’s. Drowning herself in the opening scene, we realize that she describes it as “an act of loving reasonableness” in a letter to her husband, Leonard (Stephen Dillane). Having taken her from London to the suburbs to help her feel better, Virginia only slips deeper into her internal world and creates an articulate defense in her writing.
The power of her depressed mind to invite others into her despair is next seen two decades later in Los Angeles when Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) is struggling to find her way in a life-long depression. A beautiful, lonely girl who isolated herself from others, Laura is nevertheless maneuvered into a suburban housewife lifestyle by her adoring husband Dan (John C. Reilly). Discovering Virginia’s novel, Laura accepts its logic and prepares her own suicide. Though she is unable to make this choice, she does choose to leave her husband and son as soon as her daughter is born. The damages that causes her son, from living both with her depression and living without her soon after, is seen in the next woman’s life.
Contracting AIDS and dying in an upstairs flat, Laura's son Richard (Ed Harris) is cared for by Clarissa Vaughan (Meryl Streep). Having fallen in love in their teens, Richard and Clarissa chose instead to be in homosexual and lesbian relationships with others. Having nicknamed Clarissa “Mrs. Dalloway,” Richard retreats into writing to defend himself from his deepening anguish. Winning a prestigious poetry award for being able to express the pain of his life, Richard responds with the same deliberateness of Virginia a half-century earlier.
Painfully lacking within any of the conversations, thoughts and sorrows of these hurting persons is any awareness or understanding of God or His ability to comfort their souls. Though doctors are mentioned in Virginia’s case, she only sees them as further stealing her life from her. Nowhere is there mention of prayer, faith or a church family that could come alongside with healing love and compassionate care. This absence leaves the film as empty spiritually as its characters, without hope, help, meaning nor purpose.
- One struggle with clinical depression is that the depressed person is highly susceptible to the emotions of others. Do you think this film could have the power to encourage suicide among depression-prone individuals? Did you feel depressed when you saw it?
- When Virginia chose to kill herself, she was acting on the belief that her pain would all be over since she had no belief in God. What do you think that belief in God would have changed within her? Would she still be depressed? If belief in God did not stop her depression, how would it change her experience?
- Just as “Beautiful Mind” helped us understand the experience of a paranoid schizophrenic, “The Hours” helps us understand clinical depression. How do you think vicariously experiencing these two mental illnesses will help us to care for persons afflicted with either?
- “The Hours” weaves together homosexuality and lesbian encounters into each of these people’s lives. Does this imply that there is a link between depression and homosexuality? Do you believe this to be true? How much of their suffering do you believe Richard and Clarissa are experiencing due to their sexual choices?