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Film Reviews:  The Hours Movie and the Theme of Family Abandonment

Ed Harris’ character is a great character.  He becomes who he is, a great, award-winning writer, because of his situation as a boy.  Julianne Moore’s character abandons him, his sister and his father because she can’t deal with being a wife and mother.  Ed Harris’ character also is very tragic.  He has Aids and decides to kill himself.  He gives a sense that his whole life has had many wasted times, but he recalls a summer when he saw Meryl Streep’s character coming out of the house very beautiful.  With his dialogue, he reveals that he sees the good and bad of life.

For some reason, I can identify most with Ed Harris’ character.  As a mother of two boys, I can see the true tragedy of how his mother has completely abandoned him.  Harris' character shows he has had a disconnected life and that he has used his writing to somehow “connect.”  The idea of a mother leaving her kids I’m sure has entered many mom’s thoughts, but to really and completely abandon them?  Just because they’re unhappy?  That is truly tragic. 

I keep thinking how Julianne Moore's character needs to go see Dr. Phil, for humor’s sake, and Dr. Phil will probably tell her, “Are you for real?”  He would probably further state that she needs to negotiate something with her husband and her kids some way where she can find happiness, where she can "get excited about her life," besides completely abandoning them.  But maybe she has a brain, chemical imbalance that completely keeps her from recognizing how good she has it.  Of course, the movie doesn't want to show this by the great camera skill that shows Moore's unhappiness.  She is like the complete, extreme opposite of Alicia Nash, in A Beautiful Mind.  

I can relate somewhat with Moore’s character, because once you have a child, you lose a lot of yourself, not only in time, but also in the sense of what you can do, not only as a mother, but also as an individual with your own needs.  But at the same time, once a woman becomes a mother, she can also use that strength to feel she can do anything in life.  Moore's character fails to see that life doesn't have to be leaving your kids, husband, and way of life you dislike.  It can be living life with them and finding your own happiness to add with them.

So Moore’s character just had to figure out some way where she could first, find out what she wants that will make her happy, besides abandoning her kids, and second, working it out somehow with the husband.  Of course, the movie shows the husband who is glad to be back from the war and who is living his “idea” of happiness after returning from the Second World War.  And this is shown at the cake scene where the husband blows out the candles.  Maybe the husband refuses to leave his “idea.” 

So true, Moore's character can't live the label the 1950s has marketed upon her, and what her husband says is his "idea" of happiness.  So what was her answer?  To leave.  She got away with not having to clean up after the kids, tending to them when they're sick, feeding, clothing and making them brush their teeth, listening to them endlessly talking and asking questions because they have discovered this great skill:  talking.  This is the grunt work.  She took the easy way.  And what's ironic is, she shows up at her son's funeral when she mentions to Streep's character that she has outlived her entire family.  And to say in the character of Meryl Streep's face that she has no regrets?  Because she chose life?  Then why didn't she just continue with her life and not show up for the funeral?

The movie lacks to show that Moore and the husband even bothered trying to make it work.  As Dr. Phil would say, you know a relationship is definitely at an end after you have tried everything to keep it together and nothing has worked.  At this point, you should be able to walk out of the relationship without any hurt feelings or regret.  Moore’s character was able to walk out without any “feeling” and without any signs of working it all out, without even trying.

So I feel most for Harris’ character.  A great, artistic detail to show Harris’ broken home is shown in the scene at the babysitters.  Harris, as a young boy, is building a house of wooden blocks.  The cutting of the camera from this scene to Moore in the hotel room deep in unhappiness is a great use of camera cuts that are effective.  Moreover, when the boy knocks down the house by putting it back in the container, it is clear the boy is showing how he is about to have a broken upbringing.  Another great, artistic detail is how the boy who is screaming for his mother from the babysitter’s window is repeated and then the camera cuts to Harris’ character.  It is at this point that the audience is hinted that the boy is Harris.  It is at this point where I feel the most in the movie.  It is at this point where I feel for Harris’ character.

This theme of abandonment is also true not only in this movie or any other work of fiction, but is also true in real life.  There is the true story of Evelyn Doyle as shown in the movie, Evelyn.  The scene where Evelyn and her mother look at each other while the mother runs off never to be seen again, is one of those great moments in the movie, Evelyn.

There is also the great example of Pierce Brosnan.  In his case, it was mostly the father who did the abandoning.  His mother was left with a baby and no husband and so she decides to move to London and leave her son with the grandparents.  Fortunately, for Pierce Brosnan, he is able to reconnect with his mother at 10 years old.  He doesn’t reconnect with his father until he is 33 years old.  All those years gone! 

Themes of mothers abandoning their kids are usually shown in tragic terms, but once in a while, these kids overcome and find ways to make their lives great, as in Harris’ case where he becomes an award-winning author.  Pierce Brosnan is another example of a son who succeeds in life, who has found a way to deal with this very real and personal theme.

As I write this during the Super Bowl’s half time show, another great example is Shania Twain.  She, too, grew up never knowing her birth father. 

This theme of family abandonment is also treated in sitcoms.  In Wings, the two brothers, played by Tim Daly and Steve Webber, were also abandoned by their mother.  Despite their mother, they do their best anyway.

So, while Harris’s character shows the extreme side of the tragedy of the aftershocks of a mother’s abandonment, there are many who accept, deal and overcome the complex feelings that result.

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