UK Release Date: 1st May 2015
Runtime: 119 minutes
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Writer: David Nicholls
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge, Juno Temple
Synopsis: A headstrong, intelligent female landowner in Dorset battles to keep her farm afloat, whilst attempting to decide between three potential suitors.
The work of Thomas Hardy has appeared in cinemas on many occasions. Tess of the d’Urbervilles has hit the big screen on several occasions, as has arguably Hardy’s most famous work – Far From the Madding Crowd. The latest adaptation, from The Hunt director Thomas Vinterberg, stars Carey Mulligan as protagonist Bathsheba Everdene – a strong literary heroine.
When a relative dies, Bathsheba Everdene (Mulligan) becomes the wealthy owner of a Dorset farm. Whilst she deals with the daily issues of running a farm, she is approached by three very different suitors. Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts) is an unfortunate sheep farmer, who becomes Bathsheba’s employee on the farm; Boldwood (Michael Sheen) is a fellow landowner and Frank Troy (Tom Sturridge) is a reckless Sergeant.
More than most, Carey Mulligan is doing an excellent job of picking out great roles for women in the current cinematic climate. She has historical drama Suffragette on the way this year, but Far From the Madding Crowd is another example of how strong women are anything but a modern phenomenon.
| "It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in a language chiefly made by men to express theirs."
Mulligan’s performance here is nothing short of terrific. She twinkles with defiance as Bathsheba, but also brings an incredible vulnerability for the character. Far From the Madding Crowd isn’t a “girl power” film, and acknowledges that its heroine has flaws, but Mulligan does a great job of conveying her position as a successful woman in a world dominated by men. The foregrounding of the feminist subtext lends the film a thoroughly modern, contemporary edge, despite its Victorian source material.
Unfortunately, her leading men do a considerably poorer job. Matthias Schoenaerts (recently seen in Suite Francaise and A Little Chaos) continues to display a baffling lack of romantic lead charisma and Tom Sturridge simply plays a loutish archetype. Only the ever reliable Michael Sheen – as the tragically lovelorn Boldwood – proves a worthy co-star for Mulligan. A scene in which the two share a dimly lit duet is the spine-tingling highlight of Far From the Madding Crowd.
The film is let down a little by its glacial pacing. At times, Vinterberg seems more interested in lingering shots of the beautiful Dorset countryside than he is in his characters. There are entire sequences when the viewer is seemingly ten minutes ahead of the film, which has paused to have a really artistic look at a bale of hay.
| "One day, I will leave you. You can be sure of that."
This never derails the film though, which benefits greatly from its excellent central performance. Carey Mulligan is one of the UK’s most consistent cinematic performers and it’s her work that elevates Far From the Madding Crowd to something that’s more than the sum of its parts.
Pop or Poop?
Carey Mulligan is the undisputed star of the show in Thomas Vinterberg’s stately adaptation of Far From the Madding Crowd. Her leading men are bland caricatures and the director seems more interested in scenery than stars.
However, Mulligan brings a real electricity to her character, aided by her terrific chemistry with Michael Sheen. This one is worth seeking out.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.