It’s a 1920s drama starring Vanessa Redgrave as Clarissa Dalloway, a middle-aged socialite who is giving a party. The whole film takes place over the course of a day, although there are many flashbacks to her youth. She is from a privileged, moneyed class, married to a politician - and while she is a little stressed over the details of her party, all the work is evidently done by her household staff.
There’s not a great deal of plot. I gather that the novel is mostly stream-of-consciousness style narrated by Clarissa, and that’s the general effect of the film. We see most events from her perspective, and sometimes hear her thoughts, given separately from the action or spoken words. There’s an entirely separate subplot featuring a young war veteran who is having horrible flashbacks and hallucinations, and his wife; they are, perhaps, shown as a stark contrast to the lavish lifestyle of Clarissa and her friends.
The novel was probably considered very risqué when it was first published. The young Clarissa, in flashback, has a brief romantic encounter with her close friend Sarah. But she is also very attracted to a young and somewhat demanding man called Peter. She ends up marrying a safer, more caring man and is reasonably happy; however an encounter with Peter on her party day starts her wondering what might have happened if she had made different choices.
The film is beautifully made, and very well-casted; the younger Clarissa and friends are similar enough to their middle-aged selves that there was no problem remembering who was whom. I was a tad confused by the two time-frames for the first few minutes, but it soon became clear what was going on.
It’s not a film that caught my emotions, particularly. I could see that it was a high quality film, with great attention to period detail. As a piece of social history, it's excellent. And yet, I didn’t particularly enjoy it. That’s partly because the plot concerning the war veteran was quite disturbing, and partly, I suppose, because the Dalloways' lifestyle is so far removed from anything I’ve experienced.
I’m intrigued enough that I may decide to read the book at some point, but I doubt if I’ll want to see the film again. It made a pleasant enough evening’s viewing; the rating of PG (PG-13 in the US) seems about right, although I cannot imagine it would appeal to anyone under the age of about sixteen.
Review by Sue F copyright 2018 Sue's DVD Reviews