Before I express my opinion on this film, I want to explain something first. With this movie comes three kinds of viewers:
Viewer #1: Someone who has read the novel by Thomas Hardy, from which the film is adapted.
Viewer #2: Someone who has read the novel and/or seen previous film adaptations of it.
Viewer #3: Someone who has neither read the novel, nor seen a single film adaptation.
I am in the Viewer #3 category, thus my opinion may be quite different from those who already know the story. For example, the thrill of not knowing whom the main character would choose at the end, or if she chose at all, was enough to make me sweat. Being introduced to all the new characters, with no idea where they would end up or what they would do, was part of what swept me up into the story and made it so enjoyable. It was beautiful.
I’ll give you just a little bit of background, as much as I knew going into it, for I do not want to spoil it for my fellow Viewer #3’s. The story tells of Bathsheba Everdeen (whoa…interesting name), a strong-willed and independent woman in Victorian England whose relationship with three very different men tests her emotions, choices (sometimes questionable), and ideas of love. It is an intensely romantic and swoon-worthy film, full of all the mushy stuff us hopeless romantics love. Longing looks. Brooding men. Subtle touching of hands. Epic declarations of love. Goodness gracious it is almost ridiculous….but perfect in every way.
My mother joined me on this movie watching excursion and we clasped hands the entire time, with occasional swoon faces, gasps, and weeping. By the end, we were in a fit of tears, jumping up and down like school girls. This is most likely the experience you will have if you are in the Viewer #3 category. And that is just with regards to the story.
Visually, the film is a stunningly gorgeous piece of art. The film delivers from start to finish scene after scene of sweeping landscapes set to a romantic score of violins and piano by composer Craig Armstrong. The costumes (of which one was displayed at the Arclight Cinema on Sunset Blvd in LA where we saw the film) are intricate and beautifully fitted to each character.
Carey Mulligan proves her talent in yet another superb performance, but the men are the true treasures of the film. Newcomer Matthias Schoenaerts plays Gabriel Oaks whose character has few lines, yet speaks volumes with every stare (every glorious and beautiful stare…*wink*). Tom Sturridge is marvelously disturbing as Sergeant Francis Troy, yet lacks the charm I believe the character was meant to have. Michael Sheen gives a strong performance as William Boldwood, stealing the show during an emotional scene between him and Schoenaerts’ character Mr. Oaks.
I could go on and on for days. What is important is that after several weeks, I’m still giddy and trying to catch my breath after watching this movie. You may love it. You may hate it. If you enjoy movies like Pride & Prejudice, North & South, and The Notebook, this is your kind of movie. Far From The Madding Crown has found a spot in my Favorite Romance Movies List. Hopefully it will make it into yours as well.