Movie Review: Far From The Maddening Crowd (2015)

Posted: February 15, 2016 in Drama, Romance
Tags: ,

far from the maddening crowd

Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan) is a strong willed, independent, single woman who meets a shepherd named Gabriel Oak (Mathias Shoenaerts) one day while riding.  Almost immediately, Gabriel proposes marriage to Bathsheba, and she rejects him.  Bathsheba then inherits a sizable estate from her uncle, and Gabriel, without knowing it, rescues Bathsheba’s estate from a fire. She asks him to stay on and tend the sheep on her estate.  Bathsheba meets a wealthy older man named William Boldwood (Michael Sheen) while trying to sell the grain from her farm.  William turns out to be Bathsheba’s neighbor, and he is just as smitten as Gabriel is with Bathsheba, and he asks her to marry him as well.  Bathsheba initially rejects his proposal, but later tells him that she will consider it.  While walking home from William’s estate, Bathsheba finds a third man wandering on her property. This man is a handsome young soldier named Francis Troy, (Tom Sturridge) who is also taken with Bathsheba.  Who does Bathsheba choose as her husband?

This story reminds me very much of Jane Eyre, roughly written at about the same time period, about strong-willed women who aren’t afraid to stand up to powerful men.  Bronte’s Jane seems to be written from a woman’s perspective of what a strong female character should be, whereas Thomas Hardy writes as a male trying to think from a woman’s perspective.  I prefer Bronte’s Jane to Hardy’s Bathsheba, presuming the film version is even somewhat loyal to Hardy’s book. I have not read Hardy’s book, but the movie has made me curious to see what the book is like. The ending of the movie doesn’t really fit the tone of the rest of the film, and so I didn’t care for the ending.

The acting is very good.  Cary Mulligan does a great job as a woman trying to compete in what was then a man’s world, and maintain her farm.  Her character was somewhat constrained by Hardy’s 19th century writing style, and I assume the screenwriters wishes to stay faithful to the book. I’ve seen Mulligan in a lot of films,  Drive, An education, The Great Gatsby, and this performance is just as good as her other performances.  Michael Sheen does his usual steady job, as a wealthy older suitor, and Matthias Shoenaerts does a great job as Bathsheba’s stalwart shepherd. Tom Sturrige is also very good as a jilted soldier.

The cinematography is superb, there are big sweeping shots of the English countryside.  The pacing is also pretty good and the director also gets good performances from the four lead actors. I have not heard of this director, but he held my interest with a period piece, and that is saying something.

Far From The Maddening Crowd:  Cary carries this movie.

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