First Hit: Strong acting on all fronts and with luscious photography this was a good film but its length took away from it being better.
This long famous Thomas Hardy novel has Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba Everdene; a woman whose parents died while she was young.
She works on her Aunt’s farm, tills the soil and rides horses like a man; meaning in Victoria England women rode side saddle whereas Bathsheba rides straddling the horse. She is very strong, self assured, independent and wants to stay that way. Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), the sheep herder neighbor, is fully smitten by Bathsheba and after a few friendly visits, asks her for her and in marriage. She is shocked and says "no", explaining she doesn’t want to be married. She ends up inheriting a large home and land. After arriving she takes charge and immediately begins to make the land profitable.
Her wealthy neighbor William Boldwood (Michael Sheen) takes a liking to Bathsheba and also asks for her hand in marriage because he wants to take care of her (“provide safe harbor”). She turns him down as well. Then she becomes smitten by handsome and reckless soldier (Tom Sturridge) who touches her in more ways than one. She agrees to be married and soon regrets the decision. He fritters away her farm on gambling and eventually confides he loves another. This leaves Bathsheba to make some difficult decisions.
The movie is lusciously filmed and many details are exquisitely shared. The cast was well chosen, however the script is a little long winded in the way this story was shared.
Mulligan is very good. She definitely has grown as an actress and reverentially delivers this character role. Her semi-smile is her strong suit as it says so much. Schoenaerts is perfect as the noble, strong, silent, friend and suitor. Sheen is fantastic as the once spurned noble neighbor that sees and wants to have Bathsheba in his life. Sturridge is great as the charming, sexy soldier that has his way with Bathsheba. Jessica Barden is wonderful as Bathsheba’s assistant. Juno Temple as Fanny Robbin is great in the small and pivotal role as Sturridge’s true love. David Nicholls wrote an extended yet colorful screenplay. Thomas Vinterberg directed this well, just a little long.
Overall: This was a film to just watch and luxuriate in its tone and tenure.