Wiki article for the movie
In Victorian England, the independent and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak, a sheep farmer; Frank Troy, a reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood, a prosperous and mature bachelor.
It is generally a very faithful adaptation of the classic, but it does tighten up the timeline considerably. In the book we spend almost a decade following the lives of our main characters; here the events play out in about two years. I didn’t mind the change since it still feels quite natural and plausible. It does tone down some people’s actions and their cruelty thus making them less of a scoundrel than they truly are and some characters appear less torn about their choices than they should be.
The acting is top notch, which is something you expect from the names attached to the movie. No surprises here – I believe Carey Mulligan was a great Bathsheba Everdene and she had a wonderful chemistry with Matthias Schoenaerts as Gabriel Oak. The movie gives us many little moments between them when you can just feel a gentle attraction pulling them closer, the unspoken words of love hanging in the air and in their gazes. Oak is subtle and steadfast and I fell utterly in love with him once again. I loved him in the book and I loved him in the movie. 😀
Bathsheba is independent and stubborn, yet also reckless and impulsive. These traits may be charming when the consequences of her actions are trivial but she does get herself in deep trouble. Jumping into marriage without really knowing her husband’s character? Check. The guy turning out to be a gambler, womaniser, and abusive jerk? Check. Writing a Valentine card to an older man and giving him the impression she wishes him to court her? Check. Not finding any honourable way of bowing out of the implied ties between them and doing some rash things? Check. The girl sure knows how to make her life miserable. In the movie we clearly see her disillusionment with her husband, her growing maturation, and eventual happiness.
I’m sorry we don’t get to know other characters as well. I was grateful the writers gave us some scenes with the help but they focus most on the love square. It’s actually funny if you think about it. We’re so used to love triangles the addition of another suitor throws you off a bit. Well, Oak is firmly in the centre since other characters regularly orbit around him, asking for advice on what to do, what others think of them, if their love interest likes them… and he’s so polite in saying he’s not the person to ask because he is far from objective. You just got to love the man. 😀
I was surprised I liked Mr. Boldwood and even rooted for him at one point. Let’s admit it – he’s the rational choice for a husband and I believe he’s truly capable of being a very generous, loving one. He may not know how to woo a woman with flowery words but just look at the man and his actions. He’s utterly in love with Bathsheba and not afraid to fight for her. Michael Sheen makes him easy on the eyes as well.
The landscape in the movie is amazing and an integral part of the story. The passage of time is introduced by sequences of wildlife and the music score just adds a dreamy, almost fairy tale mood to them. The many pastoral scenes and work in the field give us a feel for the type of life they led back in those days. It may be hard work but it is also very rewarding.
Now about costumes. I generally liked them but some of the things Bathsheba wears just rubbed me the wrong way. They did not appear period correct. Frock Flicks has a wonderful post dissecting the costumes and movie – here. but in general there’s not that much to complain about. This movie is definitely a wonderful incentive to read the book or a reward for the more dreary Hardy books you probably had to chew through in school.