Far from the Madding Crowd
David Nicholls (Novel by Thomas Hardy)
Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Tom Sturridge, Michael Sheen, June Temple, Bradley Hall, Hilton McRae, Jessica Barden
PG-13 for some sexuality and violence
Buy on DVD/Blu-ray
Carey Mulligan’s fierce independence leads her to success in business, but failure in love; a shining example of how strong women at the turn of the century were looked on poorly by their male counterparts. Far from the Madding Crowd is as much a love story as it is a feminist triumph, which makes it even more better.
Mulligan’s Bathsheba Everdene must fend off three suitors whose intentions towards her vary. There’s the shepherd (Matthias Schoenaerts) who respects her courage, but resents her sometimes poor decision-making skills. There’s the somewhat haughty landowner (Michael Sheen) who sees her as someone who should be placed on a pedestal and lavished with gifts and attention, rather than someone to be respected and loved. There’s the lovelorn soldier (Tom Sturridge) who settles on Bathsheba after being stood up at the altar and who considers her the next best thing. Their pursuits vary in execution from time-biding to tenacity to beguiling charm. When she makes her decision, it’s for the worst possible reasons and she quickly comes to regret it.
Delivering two of the year’s best performances, Mulligan is superb as the enlightened, dedicated businesswoman, controlling her own destiny in spite of societal strictures to the contrary. Schoenaerts smolders as her first suitor, succumbed to tragedy and ultimately accepting of serving beneath his former romantic interest.
As for the others, Sheen is strong as a selfish, driven landowner willing to send himself into poverty in hopes that she will choose him in the end. Sturridge is a bit too sleazy as Sergeant Troy, but it fits the character well enough to drive the narrative at the appropriate moments.
David Nicholls’ screenplay based off Thomas Hardy’s acclaimed novel is an astute exploration of the challenges facing women near the turn of the 19th and 20th Centuries. Considered little more than chattel by their then-perceived superiors, Mulligan brings the undaunted determination of her role to bear as she struggles for superiority and independence in an a societal environment that works actively to undermine her. The screenplay, along with the deft handling by director Thomas Vinterberg, result in a satisfying film.
Along with the sumptuous period details from production designer Kave Quinn, set decorator Niamh Coulter, and costume designer Janet Patterson, the strong performances, and compelling plot, Far from the Madding Crowd is a involving endeavor. As the fourth cinematic adaptation of Hardy’s novel, the film may well be the best.
August 17, 2020