People who love the classics, 19th century romance, the beauty of rural England, and juicy costume dramas should be lining up to see the new movie version of Thomas Hardy’s 1874 novel Far from the Madding Crowd (trailer), starring Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Tom Sturridge, and Michael Sheen. The casting is practically perfect, especially Mulligan in the lead and Sheen as the frustrated middle-aged suitor William Boldwood. Sturridge may be a little too pretty as the dashing Sergeant Troy, though many of Troy’s best scenes have been truncated, denying him the opportunity to become a more fully realized character.
As you may recall, in Hardy’s novel, Bathsheba Everdene (Mulligan) is a headstrong young woman with a habit of rejecting marriage proposals: “What do I need a husband for?” She inherits a large farm and sets about managing her fields, animals, and workers. One of these is Gabriel Oak (Schoenaerts), who, as Anthony Lane’s New Yorker review notes, “is as unfellable as his name suggests” and saves Bathsheba’s bacon—or mutton—on more than one occasion.
But the course of true love never runs smooth and whom she will pick to marry is a lingering question that held my interest throughout, despite having read the book and having seen two previous dramatizations (the classic 1967 film with Julie Christie, Terence Stamp, and Alan Bates and the 1998 Granada Television one). Kudos to Danish director Thomas Vinterberg and screenwriter David Nicholls for preserving the best of Hardy.
Rotten Tomatoes critics rating: 85%; audiences: 79%.