Title: “Far from the Madding Crowd”
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Main Actors: Carey Mulligan (Bathsheba Everdene), Matthias Schoenaerts (Gabriel Oak), Michael Sheen (William Boldwood), and Tom Sturridge (Sergeant Francis Troy)
Run Time: 1hr 59min
“Far from the Madding Crowd”: The Most Underrated English Love Story
Growing up, I was the third born of four girls and had an aunt who was also relatively close to my older sisters’ age. This meant that a lot of my exposure to pop culture and other media were heavily guided by their hands. When we all got together, we would spend a night ordering pizza or Chinese food, setting up a picnic on the living room floor, and watching movies. There was one movie that became a permanent part of this tradition: “Pride and Prejudice.” This is where my love of English love stories with strong female leads was born. Then came “Atonement” in 2007, and “Jane Eyre” in 2011. Even though all of these movies (and books) have a special place in my heart, “Far from the Madding Crowd” takes the cake.
Released in 2015, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s “Far from the Madding Crowd” is based on the novel by Thomas Hardy written in 1874. The plot follows the lead character, Bathsheba Everdene, who is an intelligent, headstrong and independent woman who catches a lucky break in life only to have to spend her days defending herself and protecting her newfound fortune. But all of this she does well. She’s not a boss, but instead is a leader who is always willing to roll up her sleeves. Over the course of the film, she is proposed to by three very different suitors. I can’t tell you who she ends up choosing, but it’s a love that’s well earned and would melt even the devil’s heart.
Although the movie is based on a book, for once the movie is actually better. Don’t get me wrong, the book is a good read, but between the script and Carey Mulligan’s flawless representation of the character, Bathsheba Everdene is even more inspiring on screen than on paper. Speaking of actors playing their parts perfectly, “Far from the Madding Crowd” is also when I decided Matthias Schoenaerts will forever be my favorite celebrity crush (cue the Man Crush Monday posts). Other roles he’s played tended to have at least a facet of dominating masculinity, but the role of Gabriel (Farmer) Oak was different from the others. He was a quieter, calmer (for the most part), and more patient version of his usual roles, and I don’t think Thomas Vinterberg could have chosen a better actor for the part (Hardy would be proud). As for Tom Sturridge’s character, Sargent Francis Troy, although he was the right actor for the part, but the ‘stache just wasn’t doing it for me. I know it’s a minor detail, but it was definitely something I thought about more than once while watching the movie. Michael Sheen was also a good choice for his role as Lord William Boldwood, and he almost reminded me a lot of Mr. Darcy in “Pride and Prejudice” as the arrogant-turned-soft character. The camera work also closely resembled that of “Pride and Prejudice,” (sweeping camera angles, scenery shots, lighting, framing, etc.) but was different enough to stand apart.
What really sets “Far from the Madding Crowd” apart from any of the other English romance movies is the sheer level of independence of Bathsheba Everdene. This can be summed up in one of the lines she states early in the movie: “I’d hate to be some man’s property.” My kind of woman. Yes, the plot is set in 19 century England, and it’s probably rare if not unheard of for a woman at that time to be the head of a household and business owner, but she never lets her gender stop her from doing what she wants to do and how she wants to do it. She has some help along the way, but for the most part she doesn’t rely on a man to make her happy or provide for her. She’s more focused on her needs and long-term goals than anything else (although one of the suitors does cause her to stumble in this regard, she still finds herself again after the heartbreak).
I loved this movie. It’s the perfect love story with a strong, independent woman lead character. Now if the rest of Hollywood could just get on board with these types of characterizations. Young women need more Bathsheba Everdenes to look up to in their lives.