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Far from the Madding Crowd


Stars: Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge, Juno Temple, Jessica Barden

Director: Thomas Vinterberg

A decent but dullish rehash of Thomas Hardy's old chestnut about an independent Dorset farmwoman (Mulligan) in the 1870s, and her inability to choose the right man.

Scenes of haymaking and other bucolic activity reach painterly standards under the cameras of Charlotte Bruus Christensen, but David Nicholls' screenplay hardly stretches the acting muscles of a slightly underpowered cast.

Mulligan is competent enough, but her Bathsheba Everdene is petulant rather than feisty, with Sturridge powder-puff ineffective as the flashy army man she falls for; while no actor with a foreign accent, however slight, should be cast as a character called Gabriel Oak (the shepherd Bathsheba should marry), and Schoenaerts' is distracting throughout.

Michael Sheen, however, does capture the pathos of the mature landowner neighbour infatuated with our heroine and, apart from the burnished cinematography, he's the best thing in the film.

When Gabriel loses his flock of sheep, in the film's most striking sequence, Bathsheba, who has come into property, takes him on as her head shepherd, although he always seems on the verge of leaving. In fact, the film's most frequently used line may be 'Gabriel, wait!'.

Grand drama and passions to match are, alas, largely missing in this handsome, but mostly bloodless period piece that may play better on TV. As literary adaptations go, though, this is only a fair to middling Crowd.

David Quinlan

UK 2015. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox (Fox Searchlight). Colour by FotoKem.
119 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 28 Apr 2015