Unlike the seeming majority of Victorian-era novels, cities, like London or Bath, do not signify. All of the action of the movie takes place in rural Dorset, mostly around the village of “Weatherbury” (based on real-life Puddletown), with the nearest town being Hardy’s “Casterbridge” (Dorchester).
The protagonist of the movie is Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan), an independently minded orphan who has been raised on farms and has a good knowledge of them. Early on, she inherits a large farm/estate from her uncle, and takes over managing it and its staff with a will.
There’s evidently something about that in farming country, since every man she meets, from stalwart shepherd Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenarts), to neurotic gentleman farmer William Boldwood (Michael Sheen), to caddish Sergeant Francis Troy (Tom Sturridge) essentially proposes marriage to her in the first conversation they have that is more than a casual greeting. Although it’s obvious from the first reel, when measuring gazes are exchanged between Bathsheba and Gabriel, who she’s going to end up with, unfortunately it’s Troy who first leads her to the altar, with some un-looked-for results.
Despite the foreshadowings, the movie maintains a continual and suspenseful level of emotional tension as the story works out that keeps one interested. Very handsomely photographed, staged, and costumed, the films portrays a very real feeling rural England. The men are mainly one-note characters for Bathsheba to play off of, but all the actors did their assigned roles very well, and with some nice nuances.
We both enjoyed the movie very much. Highly recommended for fellow fans of “Downton Abbey” and similar stories.
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