TIME IS ticking by, the minutes and the hours slowly bringing inescapable change into the lives of three very different women. They are separated from each other by time and place but a mysterious thread links their lives and pulls one towards the other. Their lives are interwoven, but they do not know it. Each one is facing a crisis. Even though they are living in different cities at different times, their lives echo and copy each other's. One woman is a writer, the second a housewife and the third a bookish socialite who is planning a party. Here are three women who have lost their way in the world and are each facing breakdown. It is 1923. The English novelist Virginia Woolf is living in the London suburbs. She is overcome by the boredom of suburban life and her creative force is fading. Woolf is fighting to finish her novel Mrs Dalloway, and the struggle is weighing her down. She is suffering from writer's block and knows that only the energy of the city will free her. Away from central London, Woolf is being forced into a lifestyle she does not want to lead, but it is for a reason. Woolf is hovering on the edge of mental illness and her doctors have told her she will go mad if she does not get out of London. She struggles to write Mrs Dalloway, but the effort is slowly destroying her. Now switch to a neatly antiseptic Los Angeles home in 1951. A bored housewife is reading Mrs Dalloway. Everything is neatly in place in Laura Brown's life. Everything is as it should be. Her only priority for the day is to bake a cake for her husband's birthday. She assembles the ingredients, but her movements are mechanical and there is a look in her eyes that should not be there. Laura Brown, like Virginia Woolf, is trapped in a life she does not want to lead. Baking a cake should not be the nerve-racking challenge that faces Laura as she stands in her neatly-scrubbed kitchen. She looks round for escape, but it eludes her. She picks up Mrs Dalloway and momentarily forgets her own unhappiness as she reads about another woman's life. In the third story, set in present-day New York, Clarissa Vaughan is facing a monumental challenge. Like the heroine of Mrs Dalloway, she is organising a dinner party for a group of friends. Clarissa rushes around buying flowers and ordering food. But everything around her seems to be going wrong and falling apart. Clarissa is a modern-day Virginia Woolf hanging on to the edge of chaos by the tips of her fingernails. Each of the three women struggles to get through her day as best she can. Woolf's novel Mrs Dalloway seems to be the link that unites them in the challenges that make up the desperate hours of an average day. But is there another invisible bond that unifies these three women through time and place? Only the passing of the hours will reveal the truth. Screenplay by David Hare From a novel by Michael Cunningham ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS ABOUT THE HOURS: 1. The story of The Hours is set in how many different time zones? 2. In which year did Virginia Woolf write Mrs Dalloway? 3. Why is Woolf having problems writing the novel? 4. Where is Woolf living at the time? 5. Why has she moved out of London? 6. What is wrong with Laura Brown's life? 7. How does she plan to spend her day? 8. Where does Clarissa Vaughan live? 9. What challenge is she facing today? 10. How is Clarissa coping with what she has to do? ANSWERS: 1. The story is set in three different time zones. 2. 1923. 3. She is suffering from writer's block. 4. She is living in the suburbs of London. 5. Woolf has moved away from central London because it is affecting her mental stability. 6. She is bored with her life. 7. Laura plans to pass the day baking a birthday cake for her husband. 8. Clarissa lives in present day New York. 9. She is organising a party. 10. She is coping badly because all her plans are going wrong.