Far From the Madding Crowdadapted from the novel by Thomas Hardy follows Bathsheba Everdeen (Carey Mulligan) as she encounters three very different suitors: sheep farmer Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), wealthy older man William Boldwood (Michael Sheen) and the mysterious Sergeant Frank Troy (Tom Sturridge). Bathsheba faces the concept of marriage as a compromise of her identity, personality and strength, and Mulligan embodies a strong, independent yet naïve young woman whose fortune changes as she inherits a working farm and estate.

 

Arguably the perfect choice, Mulligan has become renowned for portraying strong women from her roles in Pride and Prejudice and An Education to The Great Gatsby. Hardy's creation of Bathsheba has echoed through time in literature to influence multiple other, more modern characters, such as the well-known Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games trilogy - a strong, female role model.

 

It is almost out of place to encounter a woman ahead of her time in period dramas such as this, but Bathsheba is financially independent and equal to any man in terms of her education, ability and mind. Rather than fixating on the marriage of the female lead, the film engages viewers in the personal development of the central characters, mirroring their emotions in the wild scenery - it’s worth watching for the endless panning shots of the Dorset coastline alone.

 

Michael Sheen outshines the other male actors from his first moment on screen with a truly moving and powerful performance as a man spiralling towards self-destruction. There has been debate from critics as to whether the film is faithful to the novel, however, as a stand-alone piece of cinema it successfuly portrays a variety of well-rounded characters who are human and by nature, flawed. 

 

There is an immense amount of detail in the costumes, right down to the burgundy leather riding coat worn by Mulligan. The garment can be seen as a metaphor for her strong and sturdy character, the dark red evoking images of love, blood, passion - or all three. It’s so refreshing to watch a real woman on screen in her own right rather than accessory to her male counterpart. A pleasure to watch, so much so I picked up Hardy’s novel on the way home – a true sign of a good film, gripping story and brilliantly formed characters.

 

Far From the Madding Crowd is showing at FACT until Thursday 21 May.