Far From the Madding Crowd Parent Review
While Bathsheba's reckless decisions make for entertaining melodrama, people living in the real world would be wise to remember that these kind of happy endings happen only in books or in the movies.
Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan) leads the sort of charmed life that only a fictional character may enjoy. Orphaned at a young age, she has been cared for by benevolent relatives, raised to work hard, and given an education. Sadly she has no money to act as a dowry, but that scarcely matters to the young woman who is so independent that she doesn’t even want a husband. Still, despite her disregard of societal norms (the story takes place in the 1870’s), her beauty and brazenness manages to attract the attention of numerous eligible bachelors.
Her first proposal comes from Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), a farmer with a promising portion of land and small flock of sheep. His humble offer, which she only momentarily considers anyway, proves nil and void after a tragic mishap leaves him penniless.
Just as Gabriel’s fortune is taking a turn for the worse, Bathsheba’s takes a turn for the better. The death of an uncle makes her soul proprietor of the childless man’s estate. While he heads off to find employment, she heads off to claim her inheritance. Yet as fate (or plot manipulation) would have it, the pair meets again when Gabriel accepts a job helping to regain the grandeur and productivity of a once flourishing farm that has just passed into the hands of a new owner – Bathsheba of course.
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Soon after the heiress takes charge she find herself talking matrimony with her wealthy, middle-aged neighbor. William Boldwood (Michael Sheen) points out that their union has the potential of doubling their assets and pledges his unwavering devotion and protection. Content with her own ability to provide for and take care of herself, Bathsheba’s pride is bristled rather than soothed by his proposition.
Then she has a chance encounter with Sergeant Frank Troy (Tom Sturridge). Handsome and confident, he attempts to skirt past Bathsheba’s usual self-sufficiency with flattery, secret rendezvouses and lusty overtures (including passionate kisses and inappropriate fondling).
Based on a novel by Thomas Hardy, Ms. Everdene may at first glance appear as a feminist ahead of her time. After all, she abandons the traditional role of women and instead makes a place for herself in a man’s world. Yet the entire plot revolves around which of the three suitors Bathsheba will marry. And for all of her liberated ideals, the heroine makes some very less-than-ideal choices.
“Far from the madding crowd”, a line taken from a poem by Thomas Gray, seems to have been chosen as the title of the story for its irony. Rather than the pastoral peace the phrase refers to, the characters lead very turbulent lives despite being sequestered in a quiet country setting. Some of the disturbing issues they have to deal with include a unwed pregnancy, alcoholism, gambling addictions, obsessive behavior, suicide and murder. Viewers should also be aware of depictions of sensuality and implied sexual relations (a bedroom scene shows a shirtless man straddling his wife). As well, the unpleasant realities of a rural existence are portrayed with a barn fire, severe weather, disobedient dogs (one is shot off screen) and sick/dying livestock (carcasses and emergency surgery are seen).
Still, the real reason for the turmoil lies with Bathsheba’s reckless decisions and curt dismissals of affection/assistance. Amazingly, her free spirit manages to untangle itself from most of the consequences of her impetuous actions. While that may make for entertaining melodrama, people living in the real world would be wise to remember that these kind of happy endings happen only in books or in the movies.Directed by Thomas Vinterberg. Starring Carey Mulligan, Tom Sturridge, Matthias Schoenaerts. Running time: 119 minutes. Updated May 13, 2016
Get details on profanity, sex and violence in Far From the Madding Crowd here.
Far From the Madding Crowd Parents Guide
Why do you think Bathsheba gathers so much male attention? How interested does she seem to be in them? What things do her various suitors offer her? What tactics work on her? What ones don’t? Is she as independent and freethinking as she likes to believe she is?
If Bathsheba were a real person, how much freedom to make decisions do you think she would have enjoyed? What fortuitous events give her that privilege? If an author wasn’t in control of how her story ended, what types of outcomes do you think she would likely have had to endure? How can fictional tales sometimes distort our understanding of natural consequences for behavior?
From the Studio: The story of independent, beautiful and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan), who attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), a sheep farmer, captivated by her fetching willfulness; Frank Troy (Tom Sturridge), a handsome and reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood (Michael Sheen), a prosperous and mature bachelor. This timeless story of Bathsheba’s choices and passions explores the nature of relationships and love - as well as the human ability to overcome hardships through resilience and perseverance. Written by Fox Searchlight