Posted Oct 28 2015

Far From The Madding Crowd - Between It Rocks And A Hardy Place

Dir: Thomas Vinterberg

Starring Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge, Juno Temple

What is happening? Basic Hollywood Rule – you don’t kill the dog! First, John Wick and now Thomas Hardy!!?? Two dead mutts in less than two months. Weird!

Apart from that, Vinterberg’s take on Hardy is a winning, very effective piece of costume melodrama, buoyed by a terrific cast, a never better Mulligan in particular.

Surprisingly more chaste than Schlesinger’s 1967 take on the classic, this is also considerably more condensed and moves along at such a brisk pace as to be almost too incidental, were it not for the actors delivering so much in so brief a time. All three of Bathsheba Everdene (Katniss’ great-great-great auntie??)’s suitors have something to offer, as they attempt to woo and win this prototypically independent woman of Hardy country. Sturridge plays the cad well, Schoenaerts longs so much better here than he did in the recent A Little Chaos, eliciting the audience’s empathy. But it is Sheen who dominates and brings a genuine pathos and loss to his least likely to succeed suitor. It’s a powerful turn that shows not only a man racked with tradition but, touchingly, the man beneath that.

But, as it should be, it is Mulligan who dominates. Moving from a strong young girl into an empowered young woman, but one who is also still, despite her best efforts, trapped by both her time and her surroundings, she is simply magnificent. At once contemporary and accessible and timeless, a perfect period performance designed to inform a modern audience. We can see noms ahead for this one.

Vinterberg’s film, scripted by David Nicholls, cuts almost too swift a swathe through Hardy’s tale. But it’s still a mostly effective one.


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