WHEN was the last time you saw a flick knowing nothing about it? No trailer viewings, no newspaper reviews, no recommendation from your cousin's-girlfriend's-father's-former roommate. Nothing.
Well that's how I came at Far from the Madding Crowd. And I must say I was quite relieved. Especially when I saw Carey Mulligan, (so often playing a tragic figure with those always-on-the-verge-of-tears eyes) lighting up the screen with her optimistic radiance.
In this epic romance set in late 19th century rural England, Mulligan plays Bathsheba Everdene, an independent woman who to put it simply - just wants to farm her land without a bloody man asking her to marry him every five minutes. Unfortunately in the repressed, male-driven world where she lives, this ain't easy.
Based on the Thomas Hardy novel of the same name (so the credits told me), this film shows just how to do an unrequited love story, full with plot twists and turns, love, lust, drownings, fires and storms, and, yes, even a sheep mass suicide. But what it has at the heart - that most modern romances fail at - is that although we all know who will end up together, we just want to get lost in the story enough to want it to happen. The trials and tribulations that befall these characters must be true. For at the centre of any great story - no matter how unbelievable - is truth.
Mr Oak is an honourable, wise, and restrained character of much charisma and the casting of Belgian Matthias Schoenaerts is perfect. He matches and challenges our heroine. The damaged yet dignified Mr Boldwood courts respectfully and repeatedly while the dashing Sargeant Francis Troy may not be all that he promises. All three crowd and confuse the beautiful Bathsheba as she struggles with her own feelings, desires and dreams.
The film has some great lines befitting the best of English period drama, and at the same time shows modern romance films just how to juggle a plot, three potential suitors, pre-industrialised farming and still come up smelling like the English countryside.