See this review on The Fan Carpet.
In cinemas May 1st!
The literary junkies among us may already know the story of Thomas Hardy’s 'Far from the Madding Crowd'. In fact, even if books are not your thing, you may recall the much applauded John Schleslinger’s adaptation, released in 1967 and starring Julie Christie (don’t show your age now). If both of these classics have eluded you, let me give you a quick rundown. Bathsheba Everdene is the ultimate feminist in a time when feminists were subjected to the same mixture of fear and fascination as an extra-terrestrial strolling down Tottenham Court Road might be today. Despite and probably also because of these qualities, she finds herself the subject of three very different men’s affections.
This latest adaptation by Danish director Thomas Vinterberg will, at the very least, make you fall in love with Devon. Although Thomas Hardy’s novel is set in the kind-of fictional Wessex (Hardy’s term for Dorset and its surrounding counties), Vinterberg’s version is very specifically set in Devon, and it’s easy to see why. The sprawling landscapes with a mixture of exquisite, lush fields and harsh, jagged cliffs mirror the beauty and painful isolation of the characters’ lives.
Carey Mulligan is wonderful in the role of Bathsheba. Despite a mostly cute and innocent outward appearance, she exudes an intelligence and strong mindedness that makes her seem much older than her years. The character itself is every actresses dream. Considering the time of its creation (Hardy’s novel was released in 1874), she is incredibly well rounded and independent. Complex and full of contradictions, she feels her way through life with a realism that is largely missing from other heroines of its era. Mulligan tackles this character with expertise and you often find yourself simultaneously loving and hating her in equal measure whilst also willing her to make the right decision, to live happily ever after.
Mattias Schoenaerts is another actor perfectly cast in his role as Gabriel Oak. Schoenaerts’ Gabriel is almost maddeningly kind. Although perfectly willing to speak his mind, he does so with a delicacy and benevolence that will make girls around the world fall in love. His soft eyes and innate stillness seem to fill both Bathsheba and the audience with a sense of calm that is torn away the minute he leaves the screen.
Possibly the weakest link within the leading roles is Sergeant Francis Troy (Tom Sturridge), although I am reluctant to place the blame on Sturridge himself. While a valiant attempt, he struggles with a somewhat underwritten character. He’s the only one of Bathsheba’s suitors who it is genuinely difficult to understand her attraction to. Full of bravado and ego, he lacks any real charm and I question whether Bathsheba would ever even give him the time of day. Michael Sheen is William Boldwood, our remaining suitor, and positively steals the show. At first dismissive and rude, as more of his character is revealed, so is his renowned acting talent. Even the most banal lines are underpinned with an inherent sadness and pain that makes you want to just hug him. Boldwood is often a difficult character to find affection for but in Sheen’s hands he is magnetic, heartbreaking.
Overall, the film is fantastic. Beautiful, cruel, funny and romantic. It’s refreshing to watch a film where the roles are reversed. The female lead, smart and independent, avoiding romantic attachment and running from the idea of being tied down, whilst the men chase after her, grappling for the chance to couple up. Sporting a stellar cast, vital for this particular story, some scenes are so heartbreaking that if they don’t utterly destroy you, I can only assume you have no soul. Take tissues.
Review by Melanie Crossey.
See this review on The Fan Carpet.
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