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FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD (review)

far_from_the_madding_crowd_ver2FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Directed by Thomas Vinterberg
Written by David Nicholls
Starring Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts and Michael Sheen
Bathsheba Everdene: I wouldn’t mind being a bride at a wedding if I didn’t have to have a husband.
What is it like for a beautiful young bachelorette to be an independent and wealthy landowner in 19th century England? Classic character Bathsheba Everdine (played by THE GREAT GATSBY’s Carey Mulligan) gets to find out in this latest big-screen adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s famed novel, FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD.

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Bathsheba lives a happy, simple life out in the country, content to spend her days tending to her duties, riding her horse and chatting with neighbouring farmer Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts, THE DROP). She and Gabriel clearly have feelings for each other, but she is determined to maintain her freedom and avoids marriage at all costs. Eventually, a reversal of their fortunes finds Bathsheba coming into a large inheritance and Gabriel having to work for her as a farmhand. No one knows her better than he does and he is forced to watch as her social status climbs in spite of her gender and suitors begin to vie for her attention. For her part, Bathsheba is torn between the older, wealthy William Boldwood (Michael Sheen, FROST/NIXON) who offers her financial stability and emotional security, and the handsome – yet somewhat smarmy – Sergeant Francis Troy (Tom Sturridge, PIRATE RADIO), who sweeps her off her feet with his good looks, charm and passion. All the while ignoring whatever feelings she still harbours for the quiet farmhand who tends to his work and looks on from the sidelines.

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First adapted for the screen in 1967 with Julie Christie in the starring role, director Thomas Vinterberg (THE HUNT) now brings a lovely update to the 140-year old story. But it’s obviously also a story that is typical of a Victorian era, and no matter how big of a classical literature fan you are, you can’t quite glory in Bathsheba’s feminism as she’s falling at the feet of one man and begging yet another to tell her what she should do. And so the film’s true charm lies in its cast. Mulligan is simply sublime as the headstrong Bathsheba, and you continue to love her through her frustrating contrariness. Likewise, you pity the sad and lonely Mr. Boldwood, are charmed by the rugged Gabriel Oak and don’t quite know what to think of Sergeant Troy – at least initially. Through their stellar performances, each of the lead players is able to evoke all the emotion Hardy would likely have wanted his characters to effect, ultimately doing the author justice.

4 sheep

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