What a simply horrid problem Bathsheba Everdene (Katniss’s great-great grandmother?) has to contend with! She’s young and pretty and has inherited a big old house in the British countryside with its own working farm and the money to run it, and she has three, count them, THREE men who want to marry her. The downside to her situation is that she lives in Victorian England and women are not supposed to be independent or headstrong. In this latest adaptation of the Thomas Hardy novel, Carey Mulligan plays Bathsheba with a decidedly 21st century vibe. And that works because really at its core Far from the Madding Crowd is a timeless tale of recognizing the love that is right in front of you, no matter what anyone thinks.
When we first meet Bathsheba, she is working at her Aunt’s farm and meets the ruggedly handsome sheep farmer next door, Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts,) who barely knows her before he asks for her hand, but is rejected. Then tragedy strikes him and providence shines on her, and suddenly she is the mistress of a large farm and he is working for her. And soon the wealthy and older owner of the next farm over, Mr. Boldwood (Michael Sheen,) takes a shine to her and begins to woo her, though she doesn’t feel the need, as women mostly did back then, to be married for marriage’s sake, and keeps him at arms length. Next, enter the tall, dark, and handsome soldier, Sergeant Troy (Tom Sturridge,) who sweeps her off her feet, though Gabriel warns her against him. But becoming Mrs. Troy doesn’t turn out to be all she hoped, and the lesson is she really should have listened to Gabriel all along.
Far from the Madding Crowd is gorgeously shot and immerses you in the pastoral life of late 19th century England. Carey Mulligan gives Bathsheba a strength that Julie Christie did not in the other famous version (that I always loved), though I think they are each representative of the women of their times. You are pulling for her to open her eyes to Gabriel from the beginning to the end. Matthias Schoenaerts, who was amazing in Rust and Bone, gives Gabriel an intelligent depth, as he looks out for Bathsheba and gives her advice, which she both wants and doesn’t. It is one of those romances that pulls you along with glances and small gestures. I only wish I’d felt more chemistry between Bathsheba and Troy, since he is the one that is able to break through her shell. It is a lovely adaptation, probably better than the ’60s version. I’d recommend it to lovers of period romances and literary flicks, the Jane Austen and Downton Abbey set. It would also make a great chick outing.