Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Performances I Love: Stephen Dillane in The Hours

By Sati. Wednesday, June 26, 2013 ,
Dearest, I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel I can't go through another one of these terrible times and I shant recover this time. I begin to hear voices and can't concentrate so I am doing what seems to be the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I know that I am spoiling your life and without me you could work and you will, I know. You see I can't even write this properly. What I want to say is that I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. Everything is gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can't go on spoiling your life any longer. I don't think two people could have been happier than we have been. Virginia 
- Virgina Woolf's suicide letter to her husband Leonard.

Well, let's write about something other than Game of Thrones. To be fair, Stephen Dillane is on Game of Thrones, but let's write about his character in a different project, well the writers actually have respect for him. A while ago I was thinking about making a list of the best movie husbands. Problem was that I only came up with two - Christian Bale's character in The New World and Stephen Dillane's Leonard Woolf in The Hours.
There's always one - one performance in acclaimed movie that is worthy of award love and recognition, yet somehow it goes to everyone else. The recent example includes Bryce Dallas Howard in The Help, but Dillane is even a better evidence of that - The Hours went on to get 3 Oscar nominations for its actors, but some of the fine performances there went unnoticed, Dillane's being the best one among those.

He does so well playing troubled Virgina Woolf's loving husband. He doesn't have that much screen time, but in all of his scenes we see an actual person and someone who cares for his wife immensely. He also tries to understand her - he looks with concern as she works late, but he is not forcing her to bend to his will. I don't know how accurately their marriage was portrayed on screen, but it seems to me that if it wasn't for Vigina's complicated mental state it would be one of the happier marriages in recent movies - even with Virginia's depression Kidman and Dillane made it look like more than just a marriage - an actual partnership.
There are several really showy moments in the film - I don't mean it in a bad way, but those were the kinds of moments that are shocking, loud, not easy to forget. We have the outburst of Meryl Streep in the kitchen, Kidman yelling on the train station, Ed Harris throwing himself out of the window. Yet my favorite acting moment of the entire movie is Dillane's quiet sadness, grief and finally acceptance in aforementioned train station sequence.

He follows Virgina there and she starts yelling that she wants to leave the countryside and go back to London. She feels alive there but Leonard knows that if they go, her health will deteriorate as in the past, surrounded by the chaos of London, Virgina tried to kill herself. He knows that if they go his beloved wife may - and most likely will - try it again, but he also sees how unhappy she is in their current home.
You can see him clearly battling with decision - his wife is not well and she is not fit to decide what will be better for her in the long run. But he sees her unhappiness and it hurts him. It is a choice between keeping her safe and in anguish and making her happy and fearing losing her on daily basis. But since he loves her so much he agrees to go.

The power of Dillane's acting is so immense he doesn't need to say a word to convey just what goes through Leonard's head in this very moment.. It is also reflected in Nicole Kidman's eyes - she sees this man who loves her so much he is even willing to let her go, putting her happiness before his.
As wonderful as the performances of the actresses were here, I don't think they would work nearly as well without the fine actors helping them build their characters, show the incredible range of emotions and put everything in perspective. Would Streep create such an amazing work without Ed Harris? Would Julianne Moore's sadness be portrayed so incredibly without John C. Reilly's joy in the contrast? Would Kidman create her Academy Award winning performance so well without Dillane? I'm convinced the answer to those questions is no.

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20 comments:

  1. Oh my God. It never dawned on me that he was in The Hours. I think I get my movie blogger card revoked tonight. Great post! It makes me really want to re-visit this one now.

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    1. Nah, you shouldn't! Dillane is just awesome because he is so different in his roles. I love The Hours but the movie always makes me a little sad.

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  2. This is a really underrated performance. I watched this film years after it was released and was very surprised that it got no awards love anywhere.

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    1. Well Kidman got most of it, I think she deserved the awards, but it's sad because everyone was as good as she was there.

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    2. Yeh, I meant I was surprised he* got no awards love.

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    3. Ah. Yeah, it's a shame about that, but he is kinda always ignored :( I really hope he finally gets noticed.

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  3. I have a confession. I still need to see this movie. I love Dillane though, so awesome coverage of a guy who gets no love.

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    1. Oh, definitely see it - amazing film! Great to read you like Dillane, he is an incredible actor.

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  4. Amazing post. I love Dillane in this film. That moment at the train station is just heartbreaking. Like if I had to rank the performances in this film, he would be second after Moore for me.

    And totally agree on the women not shining without the men in this film.

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    1. Thank you! Same here! He was amazing but Moore was just absolutely devastating.

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  5. Wow, that suicide note is so tragic. I'd forgotten the details of this movie; I've only seen it once, and that was when the movie came out in theaters! I couldn't have been older than 17 when I saw it, but it's time for a re-watch. I think I'd appreciate it a lot more, and look for the key performances by the men :)

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    1. Oh, it's one of those movies that are just as powerful on rewatch. I really would have trouble to find a better acting ensemble in movies made after 2000, everyone were at the top of their game here.

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  6. So true. One of my favorite movies ever, purely for its emotional depth. Without the man, there can be no woman.

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    1. Thanks! Same here, it's in my top 30 of all time.

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  7. Interesting, hadn't picked up on Stephen Dillane's performance before you highlighed it here. I'll keep an eye out for him, when I, inevitably, rewatch this great film.

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    1. Great! He really is wonderful, I don't think I saw him anywhere as a lead but he shines better than the leads in the movies in his supporting roles.

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  8. GREAT, GREAT write-up. I think a rewatch is in order. It's been sooo long since I've seen this and to be perfectly honest, I've never seen the entire thing. Inexcusable, I know!

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    1. Thank you! I hope you'll enjoy the movie on the second try! :)

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  9. Oh, he was great in that role. I really need to rewatch that film.

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    1. I eewatch it quite often and I really don't know why I do it to myself because it's so depressing. But it's also kinda cool how movies with so many flawless performances in them exist.

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