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Stars: Gemma Arterton, Luke Evans, Dominic Cooper, Roger Allam, Tamsin Greig, Bill Camp, Jessica Barden, Charlotte Christie, Bronagh Gallagher, Cheryl Campbell
Director: Stephen Frears
Despite its distinguished antecedents, an air of desperation hangs over this lush adaptation of Posy Simmonds' graphic novel, itself a modern revamp of Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd. The result is a cross between rural Hardy and Midsomer Murders without the murders.
Tamara (Arterton), once a hook-nosed misfit, returns to her native Dorset village with a new nose job, short shorts and a contract to write for The Independent. Ostensibly there to write in peace and quiet, and interview a rock drummer (Cooper), she's also back to sell her family home, which once belonged to hefty handyman Andy (Evans), who lost it in bad business deals and now works for philandering author Nicholas (Allam) and his long-suffering wife (Greig), who runs their farm and 'authors' retreat'.
Tamara is clearly destined to end up with Andy, but has affairs with the rocker, to whom she seems completely unsuited, and the author, to whom she's even more unsuited.
Apart from (too much of) a foul-mouthed, chain-smoking schoolgirl-on-heat (exuberantly played by Barden) - and even she's unpleasant rather than lovably off-the-rails - these are stock characters we care little about, and the rural shenanigans assume such monotony that one longs for John Nettles to appear and solve a few juicy murders. My money's on the author's wife in the farmhouse with the cake knife.
Still, it's ravishingly photographed on location, and some of the acting, notably from Greig and Allam, is first-rate. Tamara herself is a bit of a wimp and there's not much Arterton can do about it.
UK 2010. UK Distributor: Momentum. Colour by deluxe.
111 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.
Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 3.
Review date: 04 Sep 2010