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Far From the Madding Crowd (10/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 119 minutes.

OK for children.

Frankly, prospectively the problems of headstrong independent Victorian woman Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan) and the three men in her life, sheep farmer Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), wild and flamboyant Sergeant Frank Troy (Tom Sturridge), and older, quiet bachelor neighbor William Boldwood (Michael Sheen) didnít interest me that much.

But once Bathsheba appears onscreen, I was captivated. Mulligan gives an Oscarģ-quality performance. At no time did it ever cross my mind that she was acting. Even though this is a two hour film with virtually no action, I never once looked at my watch. Director Thomas Vinterberg (from a script by David Nicholls faithful to the Thomas Hardy novel) keeps the pace constantly moving forward as Mulligan carries the film for him. Thatís not to minimize the performances of her three men. Shoenaerts is immediately sympathetic, as is Sheen. And when Sturridge makes his reappearance after being introduced early on, he is instantly hateful.

Although Hardy set the story in the fictional English county of Wessex, it was based on Dorset, where he grew up, so thatís where the film was shot. The landscapes captured by cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen are eye-popping. Also enhancing the film is a fine score by Craig Armstrong. To its credit in this digital age, this movie is shot entirely on film, which gives it a different texture that seems more appropriate to period films.

While the film is about Bathsheba, thereís a moral here for men, too. If you love a woman and are rebuffed, hang around long enough and she might come to her senses.

This is one of the best films Iíve seen this century.