Patiently told and exquisitely rendered, the latest adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s classic novel showcases the kind of traditional, faultlessly proper filmmaking that breaks no new ground but delights nonetheless with the skill and sincerity it brings.
At the centre of the turbulent love story set in Victorian England is young heiress Bathsheba (Mulligan), whose beauty and quick wit attract the courtship of not two, but three dashing suitors. Predictably, she must travel full circle before settling on the candidate we knew all along would be right for her, but the familiar tale is kept relevant and the inner turmoil of its heroine relatable by such timeless dilemmas as passion versus stability and observations on universal human flaws like pride and prejudice. It doesn’t hurt, either, that the picturesque production and costume design dazzles you into an amorous stupor while the able, appealing cast does its part tickling awake your underserved need for some good old-fashioned romance.
Ultimately, this unsurprising but all-around well-crafted cinematic update reassures more than it wows. That said, one would be hard-pressed to find two such enjoyable hours dedicated to the ways of the heart elsewhere in the blockbuster-heavy summer movie slate.
Far from the Madding Crowd | Directed by Thomas Vinterberg (UK 2015) with Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge. Starts July 16
Originally published in issue #140, July/August 2015.