This engaging and brilliantly acted drama excels far more than the other releases.
In Victorian England, the independent and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan) attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), a sheep farmer; Frank Troy (Tom Strurridge), a reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood (Michael Sheen) a prosperous and mature bachelor.
I haven’t read the classic novel nor have I seen the 1967 feature with Julie Christie so I cannot make comparisons.
Carey Mulligan was superb as Bathsheba (Such a strange name). Perfectly cast as the strong willed heroine. A different kind of beauty but still a pretty young lady.
A woman desperate not to be another man’s property. Defying type and “social standing” to be her own person.
The opening act certainly zipped along and set the tone quickly. It may have been slow burning but I was happy to watch the blossoming romance between Gabriel and Bathsheba.
Matthias Schoenarts delivered a very good performance. I know people were sceptical about having a Belgian as the farm hand in something that should have been a quintessentially English affair but I thought he was charismatic and had fantastic chemistry with Mulligan.
By comparison, his performance in A Little Chaos was quite wooden.
As well as dealing with the ever-growing suitors, Bathsheba inherits her uncle’s farm and is determined to restore the place to its former glories. Her dealings in the markets and with her staff made for good viewing. Resourceful and resilient, but vulnerable and anxious.
I’m not normally one for the period dramas but I found myself vested in this love triangle.
Sheen delivered a fine turn as the strange and brooding Mr Boldwood. Hell, we even got a little sing song between him and Mulligan. I knew Mulligan could sing after her turn in Shame but it was certainly unexpected from the Sheenster.
Tom Sturridge (The Boat That Rocked) played the slick solider Frank Troy well. A slimy charmster if ever there was one.
I couldn’t help question why Bathsheba would be interested in someone who was such a tool. Troy was certainly enigmatic and a sweet talker but his behaviour was so volatile. Their forest fling was a strange encounter. His OTT sword swinging foreplay was a little comical for me. It killed the brewing tension between them.
BUT I understood that the action was supposed to display a sense of danger and excitement that the other two suitors weren’t offering.
It was obvious that the proposals would happen. But the timing of each proposal was certainly unexpected. But then again as I’ve noticed in these period dramas, they don’t have much else to do. Shearing sheep and marriage, apparently.
Boldwood’s proposal was too sudden. Sparked by a Valentine card that Bathsheba had sent as a joke. Yet somehow you felt sorry for the middle aged extrovert.
The main leads cannot be faltered. Their performances were flawless and I actually cared what happened to the characters. Each offering a different angle for Bathsheba. Security, love and danger. But all to a woman who never promised anything and did not want to be tamed.
There were moments that I didn’t see coming. A merciless sheepdog with a flock certainly delivered a unexpected cliffhanger. The cinematography by Charlotte Bruus Christensen was superb. Despite its beautifully shot idyllic backdrop, horror and grief can still strike the countryside.
Every time I felt my interest dipping or when things seemed to be heading into a lull, there would be a new development or a twist that kept me going. Not that my interest dipped that much, to be honest.
The only critique I can make about the casting was Juno Temple. She didn’t seem to make as much of an impact with her role as I expected. The role was still important to the story line but anyone could have played her.
Both Troy and Boldwood’s behaviour at certain points were a little questionable. Boldwood’s sudden infatuation and obsession with Bathsheba seemed a little disjointed. Ridiculously extravagant in one exchange, then nothing the next. I could see why but it was a little messy.
Troy’s motives were a little shady and unclear as the film progressed (Without spoiling anything). Minor niggles that were bugging me as the film came to a close.
The ending may have been a little predictable but I still came out smiling and impressed. Don’t say that often enough.
It was easygoing, engaging and wonderfully acted. One of the better films out there.