Far from the Madding Crowd is a period film set in England in the late 1800s. It’s about a young, independent woman named Bathsheba Everdene, who inherits a farm and ends up in a position to attract three very different suitors. The first is Gabriel Oak, a shepherd who meets Ms. Everdene as her neighbor but then ends up working for her after an unfortunate incident with his sheep causes him to lose everything. The second is Mr. William Boldwood, a handsome older man with plenty of money and resources to offer. Then there is Sergeant Francis Troy, a soldier with a bad-boy attitude.
The film stars Carrey Mulligan (Ms. Everdene) , Mathew Schoenaerts (Gabriel Oak, the first suitor), Michael Sheen (William Boldwood, the second suitor), Tom Sturridge (Sergeant Troy, the third suitor), and Juno Temple (Fanny, Troy’s lost love from before he met Ms. Everdene). It’s based on the book by Thomas Hardy. Here is the IMDB page for the film and the Amazon page for the book.
Warning: This review contains some spoilers!
What I liked:
The setting was gorgeous. It doesn’t get much more romantic than the English countryside! One of my favorite things about period films is that they usually feature a lot of pretty scenery, and this one was no different.
I also really liked Ms. Everdene, at least at first. She had some fierce independence going, which is great to see, especially during a time in history when women weren’t respected as equals. I’m big on independence, as you can probably tell if you’ve read my “single life” blog series, so right away I related. Then of course there was Mr. Oak. He was gorgeous, and the chemistry between the pair captured my attention.
What I didn’t like:
After Ms. Everdene meets Sergeant Troy, the story took a strange turn. Her falling for Troy was bizarre and seemed to clash with her independent nature. He was cute enough, I guess, and I get that a lot of women are enticed by the bad boy. But also the whole “meet me in the woods so I can almost kill you with my sword” foreplay was just too weird for me. She had already turned down two nice, handsome suitors, and then she marries this guy? It just didn’t make sense. Also, this is probably just me, but if a guy ever sliced off a lock of my hair like that, they’d never find his body.
Troy was an interesting character, though, because he wasn’t a full-on bad guy, but he wasn’t that good, either. He clearly could be an ass, and he had a gambling problem, but he did seem to feel true love for Fanny. In fact, I almost felt that Troy and Fanny deserved their own story instead of being crammed into this one.
I would have liked it better without William Boldwood as well. Not because I didn’t like him, but because I did like him and couldn’t stand to see him hurt. It was his own choice to kill Troy in the end, but everything that led up to it seemed unfair to him.
Basically, I would have liked the story much better had Ms. Everdene simply said yes to Gabriel right at the start. He was SO attractive, smart, kind, and sweet. I guess “woman receives lamb from cute guy and gets married” would have amounted to a five-minute movie. It was satisfying to see them finally come together, but knowing Mr. Boldwood likely spent the rest of his life rotting alone in a prison cell really put a damper on their happily ever after, at least for me.
This movie makes a strong point that is undeniably true: Love can be complicated, painful, and often leaves a huge mess behind.
Rating: 4 stars for beautiful cinematography, great acting, and a frustrating-but-juicy story.
PS. If you’ve read the book, was it similar to the film? I was thinking the book might explain a bit more about the relationship with Troy and what was going through Ms. Everdene’s head. If you have any thoughts on the film or the book, please leave a comment.