Based on a novel by Thomas Hardy and directed by Thomas Vinterberg, this film is set in 1870 about 200 miles from London. Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts) is a sheep farmer. He quickly proposes to the young and independent and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan, who earned a Best Actress Oscar nomination for 2009’s An Education). The role of Bathsheba was played by Julie Christie in John Schlesinger’s 1967 adaptation of the novel). Bathsheba is spending the summer with her aunt at the adjacent farm, and she quickly turns him down. Soon their fortunes change and Gabriel finds himself working for Bathsheba, who has now inherited a large once prosperous farm from her beloved uncle.
Gabriel still cares for Bathsheba, but in their new circumstances he knows there is no possibility for him. The wealthy William Boldwood (Michael Sheen, who played Tony Blair in The Queen), proposes to Bathsheba, but after telling him that she would consider it, turns him down as well, indicating that she doesn’t need a husband.
Into her life then comes the handsome Sgt. Francis ‘Frank’ Troy (Tom Sturridge), who was left at the altar by the love of his life (Juno Temple as Fanny Robbin, who used to work on Bathsheba’s farm), because Fanny went to the wrong church. He gives Bathsheba her first kiss. Bathsheba tries to manage the large farm while having three suitors. Liddy (Jessica Barden) is Bathsheba’s faithful assistant.
The movie is beautifully filmed in the English countryside by cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen. The acting performances are strong, particularly Mulligan. A few scenes are filmed in the local church, but we don’t necessarily see any faith in the lives of the main characters impacting their daily lives. This movie does show how important character, integrity and faithfulness are when choosing a husband – far more than riches or good looks.