Far From The Madding Crowd review

Hardy candy.

GamesRadar+ Verdict

Fresh enough to engage newcomers, respectful enough to appease scholars, this is – for genre fans – pure period-drama porn.

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Hardy candy.

Long before her namesake kicked ass in the Capitol, there was Thomas Hardy’s Victorian games-player, Bathsheba Everdene. Less passive than Hardy’s most famous heroine, Tess, feisty farmer Bathsheba (Carey Mulligan) tries to play the field, figuratively and literally: a proto-feminist hoping to wed for love rather than obligation, and run her business against a bucolic backdrop.

Having inherited wealth and a rural estate, she’s also independent enough to get embroiled in a love quadrant; turning down marriage to solid shepherd Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), getting in too deep with pernicious cavalryman Sergeant Troy (Tom Sturridge) and enflaming rich, reserved neighbour William Boldwood (Michael Sheen).

Cinematic and romantic on paper, Miss E’s girl-power pastoral passions deliver an idiot-proof primer for any filmmaker. David Nicholls hasn’t messed with the formula, cleaving closely to the book (while newly emphasising female empowerment), and The Hunt director Thomas Vinterberg allows the Dorset countryside, impeccable costuming and production design to do the talking, creating an uncontroversial, classy and faithful adaptation.

Making this relevant, then – while banishing memories of John Schlesinger’s still sizzling (and recently re-released) 1967 version – is in the casting and chemistry. Mulligan is a rosy-cheeked, lively delight as Bathsheba and she generates decent heat with a Labrador-like Schoenaerts and too-boyish Sturridge.

But the heart of the tale is driven by Sheen’s delicately proud, pained performance as the third man. And it’s in scenes with Sheen that Mulligan is at her sparkling and most seductive best; whether fighting for equality in the corn exchange, singing a candlelit duet over a lush harvest supper or exchanging baleful looks across a ballroom.

More info

Theatrical release1 May 2015
DirectorThomas Vinterberg
Starring"Carey Mulligan","Matthias Schoenaerts","Tom Sturridge","Michael Sheen","Juno Temple"
Available platformsMovie
Editor-in-Chief, Total Film

Jane Crowther is a contributing editor to Total Film magazine, having formerly been the longtime Editor, as well as serving as the Editor-in-Chief of the Film Group here at Future Plc, which covers Total Film, SFX, and numerous TV and women's interest brands. Jane is also the vice-chair of The Critics' Circle and a BAFTA member. You'll find Jane on GamesRadar+ exploring the biggest movies in the world and living up to her reputation as one of the most authoritative voices on film in the industry.