Far From The Madding Crowd: Film Review
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge, Juno Temple
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
It's a bold opening statement from Carey Mulligan's heroine in this adaptation of the Thomas Hardy book from The Hunt director Thomas Vinterberg. But it's one which sets the stall out impressively and gives Mulligan a chance to shine as the Victorian heroine of the piece.
Through circumstance, Everdene finds herself the owner of a farm and attracting the attention of three different suitors; a gentle shepherd Gabriel Oak (Schoenaerts), her lonely and unhappy neighbour Boldwood (Sheen) and the jilted desperate Sergeant Frank Troy (Sturridge).
In adapting the novel for the big screen and today's audience sensibilities, Vinterberg has not taken his eye off the ball. Lushly shot, making the best of the occasionally desolate period settings, the sunsets and occasionally horrifying imagery (a haunting herding sequence early on being shocking), this Far From The Madding Crowd is a treat for the eyes and the mind.
Mulligan brings a stoic strength and moments of vulnerability to Everdene as the story plays out and the consequences of her triumvirate of suitors. But it's never entirely convincing when it comes to the chemistry between her and Schoenaerts as the love story builds in the face of such challenges, with scenes faltering as they head on their path. She intones at one point that "It is my intention to astonish you all" and that ethos could be applied to Mulligan who's never anything less than compelling as the feminist lead.
Subsequently another weak point is Sergeant Troy, a man who feels underdeveloped and whose actions probably felt more understandable among the prose but whose treatment on the screen suffers due to necessary narrative truncation.
But it's the heartbreak and sadness of Sheen's dignified yet tragic Boldwood that really hits the dramatic mark, imbuing each interaction with Everdene with a feeling that tears are never too far away and that a bittersweet life has left him teetering on the edge.
There's class riddled through this production though, with cinematography of the Dorset countryside, the costuming and attention to period detail shining all the way through, giving it a feeling of prestige.
Worth it for Mulligan and Sheen alone, this Far From The Madding Crowd takes a book from the 1800s and heaves a thrilling breath of cinematic air into it.