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A Farm Woman's Ways: Far From The Madding Crowd
Farms were always a part of the life of Bathsheba Everdene. She grew up on her parents' farm in Dorset, then, as a young woman, lived on her aunt's farm to help her. While men were not at the forefront of her mind, three different men take an interest in Bathsheba during the Victorian Era in Far From The Madding Crowd. The interest in Bathsheba (Carey Mulligan) begins while with her aunt. The neighbor farmer, Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), tries to woo her with the gift of a lamb. While she accepts the lamb, she does not want to develop the relationship with him. He has taken out a loan on his farm in the hopes of raising sheep, but a sheepdog's actions spell doom for the sheep, and for Gabriel's chances of repaying the loan. He heads to another village in search of employment. Meanwhile, Bathsheba inherits her parents' estate in the very same village. When Bathsheba fires one of the old staff over his inaction following a fire, she hires Gabriel. She also starts to take an interest in William Boldwood (Michael Sheen), an older farmer who never married because he'd been jilted as a young man. The interest in Boldwood, though, seems to be greater with the man, in the same sort of way Bathsheba feels for Gabriel.
The man who does win Bathsheba's heart, though, is Francis Troy (Tom Sturridge), a sergeant in the British Army who had planned to marry Fanny Robin (Juno Temple). Fanny, however, went to the wrong church, and later found that her beloved had left, believing he'd been jilted. The story led to a fast courtship and marriage. Bathsheba soon learns that her husband not only feels he controls a farm while knowing nothing of the daily operations, he drinks and gambles away much of the money. After a falling out that includes tending to arrangements to bury Fanny, who once worked at the farm but died homeless, Francis leaves for the shore. He goes for a swim, but doesn't return and is presumed dead. Boldwood settles the farm's debts and would like to merge their estates through marriage. Gabriel, who'd already left once but was persuaded to returm by Bathsheba, plans to make a permanent exit by immigrating to America. A Christmas party at the Boldwood estate, though, brings an unexpected change for these people.
Far From The Madding Crowd, based on the novel by Thomas Hardy, is an interesting look at men and women, and the way they share feelings. While the main characters clearly live away from a big city, viewers could say they make a madding crowd all by themselves. If she ever weds, Bathsheba clearly wants a man who respects her as an individual, which Gabriel and William do. However, she takes a man who wants nothing to do with satisfying that need of hers. At their wedding, Francis stays up with the other hands and has a good time long after the guests have gone, and she wants to go to bed. Yet, viewers should sympathize with Bathsheba. She gets touched by the story of Francis more than by the decency of both Gabriel and William. She's a romantic who wants a perfect love that doesn't exist. The pace created by director Thomas Vinterberberg sometimes runs a bit slow, but captures a time where expectations of men and women tended to be different. The screenplay for David Nicholls suggests that differences should not stand in the way of feelings.
The key performances are all strong, especially Mulligan. Her Bathsheba made me feel irritated by the way she treated Gabriel and William. Yet, she also shows how women were treated differently. In the scene where she and another farm hand go to market to sell their grain, she finds men want to pay less for her grain simply because she's a woman. She has to work hard to get a price close to what she asks. Schoeraerts shows a man of patience and great ability as Gabriel who wants a decent chance to prove himself in any way. Gabriel, in fact, could be accused of being too patient with Bathsheba, but I doubt he'd be any other way. Sheen is fine as the wealthy Mr. Boldwood, a man with a longing to share his life with someone else, and knows that wish comes with no guarantee. Sturridge is good as the sergeant who charms, then takes control once he gets what he wants. Temple is also good in a small role as Fanny, a woman who takes the shame over her misunderstanding to her end.
Most people have a wish to share their lives with others who care for and support them. The people in Far From The Madding Crowd long for that, even when their actions belie their feelings. The film also speaks to the need of women to be treated in the same way as men when certain issues are involved. Bathsheba Everdene finds it hard to find the right balance between proving herself in farming and sharing her life with a man who truly cares. Even in a scenic part of rural England, she learns that she still draws a crowd for devotion and affection.
On a scale of zero to four stars, I give Far From The Madding Crowd three stars. The things we do with love.