Ben Oliver

Banner image for Far From The Madding Crowd

Far From The Madding Crowd

It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in a language chiefly made by men to express theirs.
01 May 2017

A young woman (Carey Mulligan) inherits a farm in 19th century England and works hard to keep it running while maintaining her independence. Meanwhile she must contend with three potential love interests - a lonely neighbour (Michael Sheen), a shepherd (Matthias Schoenaerts) and a soldier (Tom Sturridge).

There is no questioning the brilliance of the source material when it comes to period adaptations, and yet so many film makers are content to fall back on this rather than try to make something original. Get a text in the public domain, get someone to write it up into a screenplay (even though it’s been done 3 times before and has a TV miniseries), throw in some big name actors and a healthy costume budget and you’ve got yourself a film.

Fortunately, Far From the Madding Crowd manages for the most part to avoid becoming the dull procedural slog that we’ve seen from its peers. Carey Mulligan lights up the screen like few can, lending an air of strength and vulnerability to the character while maintaining a sense of intrigue about her.

Vinterberg seems to use black magic to make every sunrise and sunset in Dorset look like a dream - either that or he shot the whole film in the three nice weeks of the year. He seems keenly aware of every ray of light hitting the lens and makes it work almost like another person in the frame.

However, at two hours this is a short film for such a long book and it shows. The final third is rushed, and the film as a whole fails to give us an idea of the passage of time. Did the events occur over days, months or years? It has the tone of an epic love story spanning over decades yet elements in the plot suggest it lasted a few months at most.

Better than a four hour snoozefest but ultimately a waste of some great performances.