The Hours Starring: Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Ed Harris Director: Stephen Daldry The film: The fact that The Hours lost out in this year's race for the best picture Oscar to Chicago may well remain one of film history's great unsolved mysteries, right up there with Rocky's win in 1976 over a field that boasted All The President's Men, Network and Taxi Driver. I guess some things are best left unexplained. Director Stephen Daldry had created a stir with Billy Elliot in 2000, his first major release since crossing over to cinema from the theatre world. And he had some decent props to work with when he took on this project - a line-up of pure acting quality and a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel from which to draw being chief among them. He certainly doesn't disappoint. The interwoven stories of three women spanning 80-odd years works almost without fault. The link is Virginia Woolf (played to perfection by Nicole Kidman, who won an Oscar for her efforts, and pictured right with Stephen Dillane who plays Woolf's husband). We have her story, as she struggles to write the novel Mrs Dalloway; that of a mid-1950s housewife (Julianne Moore) who is reading the work; and that of a modern-day book editor (Meryl Streep). All three women feel life has, to varying degrees, not turned out how they had hoped. There are complex issues at hand but Daldry slides us through them, and through the time periods, with ease. Kidman's effort aside, the film is blessed by faultless displays. Streep and Moore could have taken her award; such is the passion and strength on show. And the support, from the likes of Ed Harris and even Jeff Daniels, helps flesh the whole thing out superbly. Daldry has produced a remarkable film for these times; it comes from a big studio and actually delivers on almost each and every promise that it makes. Nine Oscar nominations covered every facet of the film, from screenplay to costumes, and that is full praise indeed. Perhaps the only thing that fails to shine (despite his nomination) throughout the whole production is Philip Glass' at times intrusive score. His work has that 'love it or loathe it' feel but maybe someone should have just turned the volume down a touch. The extras: Excellent commentary tracks, especially Daldry's, which goes into depth about how he came about framing the separate stories and how he managed to make them flow so seamlessly. There are also four featurettes, the highlight of which is one of Woolf herself. The verdict: Already a timeless classic.