Far From The Madding Crowd


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Far From The Madding Crowd
"The pace is slower than a trot"

Seduction by location is difficult to resist, especially when Thomas Hardy himself loved to linger in sunset fields as summer blazed its perfect glory through nostalgia's cracked mirror. If Far From The Madding Crowd is anything it is a romantic melodrama, simmering in the glow of ripening corn.

The plot has been lifted from Mills & Boon's back catalogue. What absurdity is this when a feisty young woman, alive with energy and repressed passion, admits that she has never been kissed and then falls for the first bounder in uniform who makes a pass at her when the best looking bedroom material is right there on her farm, too honourable to take advantage. And then there is Mr Sad next door in a posh house with acres of land and a bank balance that would turn a millionaire green. His second name is Nice. He's Mr Nice Sad, desperate to marry Bathsheba, the aforementioned farmer who talks of enjoying independence and being her own woman.

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The film goes for the jug and massages your senses with landscape artistry that Dorset's tourist board would die for. The farm stuff is frankly daft. Sheep and collies behave in ways that would never happen in real life and Bathsheba works in ploughed fields wearing haute couture dresses and soft black leather gloves. She talks of when "my uncle passed away" and later a friend says, "I am sorry for your loss." This is supposed to be the 19th century when a spade was a spade and people "died". As for splashing around in the dipping troughs with immaculately clean ewes, hasn't anyone told them it's poisonous?

The pace is slower than a trot. Thomas Vinterberg, Danish director of The Hunt, has been tamed by Hardy's reputation and the golden reflection of England's rural idyll. All he wants to do, it seems, is sit in the shade of The Pretty Tree and watch nature tell lies.

The acting saves the film from what is left of honour. Carey Mulligan has such an expressive face she doesn't need dialogue to touch Bathsheba's heart. Matthias Schoenaerts who gave memorable impressions of a wood carving in Suite Francaise and A Little Chaos breaks free from mediocrity and succeeds in providing Gabriel Oak, the rejected love interest, with a basis of reality. Ditto Michael Sheen as Mr Nice Sad. He has the toughest role. How do you make a shy middle-aged gentleman farmer anything but dull? Answer: never explain, never apologise, concentrate on the details. The biggest let down, however, is Tom Sturridge, as the mustachioed ex-army cad. He lacks what Sergeant Troy needs - charm, sex appeal, self confidence and magnetism.

Come back Terence Stamp<, all is forgiven.

Reviewed on: 29 Apr 2015
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Far From The Madding Crowd packshot
In Victorian England, the independent and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak, a sheep farmer; Frank Troy, a reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood, a prosperous and mature bachelor.
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Director: Thomas Vinterberg

Writer: David Nicholls, based on the novel by Thomas Hardy

Starring: Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge, Jessica Barden, Victor McGuire, Juno Temple, Bradley Hall

Year: 2015

Runtime: 119 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: UK, US


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Far From The Madding Crowd