FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Dir. Thomas Vinterberg
Starring Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge
A period piece may be a hard sell these days, but Thomas Vinterberg's Far from the Madding Crowd defies period conventions and becomes a modern tale set in a bygone time. Highlighted with beautiful performances by Carey Mulligan and Matthias Schoenaerts, Vinterberg's romantic drama may get lost in the crowd, but deserves to shine.
Bathsheba Everdene has a strong name that matches her unwavering character. While stampeding through Victorian England as an independent woman, even growing up to run her own farm, Everdene's one weakness is the men she attracts. Gabriel is a sheep farmer who chooses to sheepishly flex his charm through his innocent and sincere care for Everdene. Frank is a military man driven by his own desires, reluctant to allow a woman to guide him in any way (mostly due to being left at the altar years before). William Boldwood is mature and self-sufficient financially (as is Everdene), but wishes to wine and dine Bathsheba to her heart's content. She finds interest in each for different reasons, but only time will tell where her heart truly lies.
The set-up may come across daunting, especially knowing the film is set in Victorian England. For every Jane Austin fan there are at least ten scared filmgoers reminiscing their high school days. Have no fear! Far from the Madding Crowd takes an ambitious setting and story and presents it in a beautiful, epic, and current package. The sweeping cinematography is interesting, never dull and redundant. The characters are period-appropriate, but never dry or basic. The dialogue is interesting and never overwhelming.
While film directors and storytellers should never completely change or give up on a vision for the sake of an audience, there is some merit in a filmmaker that tries to tell a story from antiquity in a new and fresh way.
Carey Mulligan, as Bathsheba, displays the appropriate mix of earnestness and strong femininity. While some may criticize her young looks in the realm of such a heavy role, it's that youth that adds to her confidence and strength. Matthias Schoenaerts, as Gabriel, is more than just handsome looks. Michael Sheen is delightful as the almost-creepy, older Boldwood. But, the real standout is Tom Sturridge as Frank Troy, a tough, but hurt, sergeant torn over his unrequited love, trying to move forward in the most twisted of ways.
Based on the classic Thomas Hardy novel of the same name, Far from the Madding Crowd is a great piece of cinema more deserving of the box office time it will see. It's beautiful. It's fun. It's creative. It's intelligent.
Runtime: 119 minutes