Thomas Hardy’s 1874 novel is lusciously endowed with sweeping, undulating landscapes, “Turneresque” sunsets and actors, imbuing their characters with all the scintillating romance and passionate drama Hardy intended; Carey Mulligan as “Bathsheba Everdene” is as tempestuous, and as alluring as her biblical namesake (Bathsheba, married King David, after he eliminated her husband, Uriah; impregnated her with the future King of Israel, Solomon) juicy nuances not lost on Hardy.
England, in 1870 initiated the “Married Woman’s Property Act” allowing women the legal rights to monies they earned, and recognized their right to inherit property; dramatic upheaval in a male-controlled society where women, especially after marriage, had no control of their “dowries” or lives. Hardy’s “Miss Everdene” is the poster girl, the “feminine mystique”, the heroine with spine, spleen and spirit of these revolutionary times; she inherits from her uncle; becomes “mistress” of her domain; Mulligan grasps the intricacies and vulnerabilities of an independent, virginal girl; a girl who ignites the passion of three disparate men.
Matthias Schoenaerts, “Farmer Oak” exhibits the sage, subtle strength and nobility of a man who loves, loses; loss does not diminish, nor compromise his integrity; we root for his “suit” throughout the film.
Michael Sheen, “Mr. Boldwood”, an emotionally marred, wealthy neighbor of Miss Everdene’s; she foolishly, cruelly toys with his sensitivities; she feeds his hollowness and he is defenseless in his adoration, obsession; his future, frighteningly lies at her whim.
Tom Sturridge, “Sergeant Troy” with his foppish charm, devastating sexuality is Miss Everdene’s “Achilles’ Heel”; Hardy could never allow his heroine to emerge unscathed; she must be shunted to the days before the married woman’s property act, demeaned, “put in her place”, her judgment shattered; another woman more beautiful, more loved, drives the feckless Troy to desertion.
Bathsheba Everdene in 1874, as mistress of her fate, is everlastingly more formidable than the hapless “Tess of the d’Urbervilles” in 1891.
THREE & 1/2 STARS!!!