The Hours and Suicide

Stephen Daldry’s The Hours is a 2002 “steam-of-consciousness”, revisionist melodrama that examines the lives of three women in different time periods as they struggle with the oppression of their own eras. Virginia Woolf writes her novel as she suffers from mental illness. She eventually commits suicide (in the opening scene as well) to alleviate her suffering and the suffering of her husband. Laura is a housewife in the 1950’s that contemplates suicide as an escape from her oppressive predicament. She decides against it on the grounds that she is pregnant. Clarissa is a book editor that takes care of her friend Richard, a sufferer of AIDS, that has just received a prestigious prize for his novel. Richard commits suicide before his party, that Clarissa arranged. 


The Hours can be considered a revisionist melodrama in that much of the plot is centered on the suffering of homosexuals, as opposed to just women. The most obvious example is the relationship between Clarissa and Richard. Clarissa spends much of her time caring for Richard as he withers away from AIDS, causing the both of them great suffering. The film also takes the “highly moralistic” convention to the next level, as it examines suicide and the different scenarios in which it may or may not be acceptable. The viewer feels sympathy for those who commit suicide out of suffering and a wish to alleviate the suffering of those caring for them, such as Virginia Woolf and Richard. However, the viewer feels less sympathy for a pregnant housewife who contemplates suicide as she is oppressed by society and the institution of the family. In this respect, the film may be considered slightly anti-feminist.