The film The Hours deals with distinct social welfare issues, as the plot spans across various time periods in the 20th Century. It is a drama that revolves around three very different women: two of whom have been profoundly affected by the works of Virginia Woolf; the other woman is Woolf, herself. As the story unfolds, they are going through different depressive states: Virginia Woolf is struggling to write her novel Mrs. Dalloway in 1923, as she recovers from depression; Laura Brown is a depressed and pregnant Los Angeles housewife who reads Woolf's novel in 1949, as she plans her husband's birthday party; and Clarissa Vaughn is a book editor in modern-day New York, who is planning a farewell party for her AIDS-inflicted former lover, Richard - a famous author who had nicknamed her Mrs. Dalloway. The issue of depression is a central theme that weaves its way through the entire film. Each of these three women is faced with her own struggle for identity and her place in the world. During this battle, depression arises and has a distinct effect on each of the women who experience the same life demands.
Virginia Woolf, who is writing Mrs. Dalloway during the 1920s experiences chronic depression. She feels like she is a burden on her husband because she does have suicidal intents and she does not want to be the cause of his pain any longer. The danger signs are there, for the depression stems from no detectable cause; it lasts over two weeks; and there is the threat of suicide (CL, 01/16/03). Virginia Woolf's suicidal attempts frighten her husband and he moves them both to the countryside where he sets up a new life for her with serenity, tranquility, safety, and a doctor. Although it appears that Virginia Woolf is mentally ill, she also battles with her sexuality. She passionately kisses a woman, an act that has obviously been bottled up inside of her. It is difficult for her to act on these feelings even though one has no control over who one is attracted to (CL, 01/28/03).