Just like Clarissa Dalloway, Clarissa Vaughn begins the day by going to the flower store to pick up flowers for a party she is throwing later. The party is a celebration of her ex-husband but also his "last hurrah" as he is dying of AIDS.
Virginia Woolf awakens to another day or writer's block which she attributes to being stuck out in the suburbs instead of back in London where she belongs. She says good morning to Leonard, her husband, who is already immersed in going through printing proofs that he is publishing, and returns to her room to try to come up with a day in the life of her main character, Clarissa Dalloway.
Laura Brown is reading "Mrs Dalloway". She is a housewife living in post World War One California and is bored and trapped in the life she had not imagined. It is her husband's birthday but she stays in bed and reads until he has left for work. Finally going downstairs she sees Dan leave and is left home alone to take care of their son, Richie.
Come late morning, Clarissa goes over to Richard's apartment and finds it in disarray, mirroring Richard himself. Virginia has a bad headache and cannot concentrate. She believes her headache to be caused by the suburban surroundings that are draining her of her creativity. Leonard insisted that they move out of London for the good of her emotional health but his decision seems to have had the opposite effect. She calms an argument between Leonard and his assistant, then goes for pre-lunch walk. She ponders on Clarissa Dalloway's situation and makes some decisions about her. She will be frequently depressed and will once have passionately lived a woman. She will die by committing suicide. Virginia goes home to find that her sister Vanessa is coming for tea which has annoyed the cook who has no desire to go into town for special high tea ingredients. And speaking of cakes and high tea, Laura is making a birthday cake for Dan with the assistance of her little boy.
At lunchtime Clarissa runs into her girlfriend and domestic partner, Sally. Sally is on her way to lunch with a friend who is a famous actress and with whom she has a close friendship that makes Clarissa feel locked out. She is beginning to feel locked out of her life. She misses the stereotypical domestic bliss that she and Richard used to have and reminisces. Laura and Richie's cake comes out of the oven but Laura is disappointed with it and sees only faults. In the suburbs, Vanessa arrives several hours early to surprise Virginia and they watch Vanessa's children playing in the garden. Clarissa has a visitor too; in fact she has several of them. One of Richard's former lovers drops by. Clarissa and Louis are close because they have caring for Richard in common. She enjoys Louis visit but it ends abruptly because Clarissa's daughter, Julia, comes over, uninvited, bringing her obstreperous and argumentative friend. True to form and argument ensues. In the 1940s Laura has thrown the first birthday cake into the garbage and started making a second. She is bored. She drops Richie at a neighbor's house and checks into a hotel for a few hours to live her secret vicarious life reading Mrs Dalloway. The novel is making her think about things; could she ever contemplate ending it all? Although she is frustrated with her current life, she is not frustrated by the concept of living. She decides she is not a person who would ever be suicidal. It's just not her.
Halfway through the afternoon Virginia and Vanessa drink tea in the Woolf kitchen and the pleasantness of the day boosts Virginia's spirits. This rubs off on her characters too and she decides Clarissa is too happy to be suicidal. She does, though, want to have a character in the book who kills themselves and plans to come up with one. Back in the present, the abrasiveness between Clarissa, Julia and Mary escalates and her daughter leaves.
eLate afternoon sees a deflated Virginia who has come down with a bump after Vanessa has gone home. She can't write so she goes for another walk. She decides to take the train back to London but before she can board the train Leonard finds her and takes her back to the house that she is increasingly mentally imprisoned within. Laura collects Richie from his sitter and later as she watches him and her husband eat the birthday cake she has made she realizes that her life is a lie because as perfect as it appears from the outside, she is miserable. Clarissa receives a call from Richard. He says he is not going to make it to his party. Clarissa rushes to his apartment but finds him sitting on the windowsill. He tells her that he loves her then he jumps.
At bedtime, Virginia tells Leonard that she needs to return to London. She manages to convince him and the plan to return to the city. Even the decision to return brings her some creative clarity and she decides that Mrs Dalloway will definitely not commit suicide in the novel but another character definitely will. Laura brushes her teeth and dreads going to bed because she does not want to have sex with Dan.
Laura, older, visits Clarissa, revealing that they have been connected all along. The thread that stitches them together is Richard; in the wake of his death, his mother, Laura, reflects on his life, and the passing of time, with Clarissa.