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.
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge, Juno Temple
Readers of Thomas Hardy’s 19th century novel of the same name will know what to expect going in to this film. It hews surprisingly close to the source material, which was an unexpected joy to realize as I sat there in the theater, immersed in the English countryside, which was shot beautifully, by the way.
As for the story itself? Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan), an independent woman makes 3 men (2 good ones, 1 ass) fall in love with her, while steadfastly maintaining her independence from them (except 1, guess which).
The story is one of timeless and unconditional love, centered not on Bathsheba, but on Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), the first of Bathsheba’s suitors, a shepherd and farmer of great skill, compassion, and patience. He patiently waits years for Bathsheba to grow into the woman she will be, instead of the headstrong girl who claimed that she would never marry.
Through her dalliance with Farmer Boldwood (Michael Sheen), and impulsive marriage to Sergeant Troy (Tom Sturridge), Gabriel waits, even admonishing her in her toying with Boldwood’s affections, despite the fact that he is Gabriel’s rival for her.
Finally, after becoming widowed (Troy, drowned), courted again by Boldwood, re-widowed (Troy again, at Boldwood’s hand), and abandoned by Gabriel for a trip to America, Bathsheba finally sees what has been plain to everyone, even Boldwood, for a long time.
“Ask me. Ask me. Ask me again.”
The only real complaint I have against the film is that the opening scenes, which develop the relationship between Gabriel and Bathsheba, leading to his (rebuffed) proposal, seem a bit rush. Yes, the movie does clock in at a hair over two hours, but I’m sure they could have extended it by a couple of minutes or cut a couple somewhere else to flesh that out a bit.
Also, in an unrelated note, I could have done without the running commentary from the seats behind me, calling Gabriel a pansy for not kissing Bathsheba on the countless occasions it might have happened in a modern Rom-Com.
If you’re in the mood for a moody, period love-story, this is your film. A perfect date night flick, guys, even you won’t mind watching this one, and your companion will love it.