Having made films like ‘Festen’ and ‘The Hunt’, Thomas Vinterberg is a seasoned and very accomplished director, so it was good news that he had signed on to direct a Thomas Hardy adaptation starring the likes of Carey Mulligan and Michael Sheen. Sadly despite being handsomely mounted and featuring a very strong cast, the film feels oddly flat and Mulligan’s main character, the delightfully named Bathsheba Everdene, is sadly not as delightful as a personality, giving us very little reason to care about her romantic endeavours or to watch as she strides around her farm with infuriating pomposity. Even though there are great views of the Dorset countryside, something that is highly appreciated, it’s unfortunately the first slip up of Vinterberg’s directorial career.
The acting performances are generally at least bearable, with Carey Mulligan somewhat coasting in her role as Bathsheba, a role not quite challenging enough to bring the best out of her unlike in ‘An Education’ or ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ where she was encouraged to come out of her comfort zone. Matthias Schoenarts has made it his aim to show his face in as many films as possible this year, with this quite possibly being the 95th time we’ve seen him on screen in the past six months. His performance as Gabriel Oak, one of Bathsheba’s suitors, is not his best work but it is solid enough, he is simply given uninspiring things to say by screenwriter David Nicholls and the chemistry (or lack thereof) between him and Carey Mulligan is hardly their fault with the hammy lines they are asked to regurgitate. Michael Sheen is typically strong in his role as the reserved William Boldwood but again is left to flounder in a wholly uninteresting storyline with Batsheba. Tom Sturridge is the only real let-down. His performance is flat and totally uninteresting which is a shame but not wholly unexpected given the uninspiring nature of the film.
Disappointingly drab and lacking in adventure, ‘Far From The Madding Crowd’ is an unfulfilling experience that does not reflect Vinterberg’s directorial ability and doesn’t give its actors enough interesting things to do to prevent it from just careening towards being completely forgettable. If idyllic images of Dorset are your thing though, you may find just about enough to entice you.