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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Far from the Madding Crowd is an adaptation of a Thomas Hardy novel (previously filmed in 1967). It's a romantic drama, but it's hardly all poetry and flowers: There are some shocking images of sheep falling over a cliff and smashing on rocks below, blood spatters and all, and characters die (including a baby). Dead bodies are shown, as are guns and swords; a character is shot, and a man is verbally abusive toward his wife. Characters kiss, and marital sex is implied. During one steamy kiss, a man touches a woman in the crotch area (over her dress). There's some social drinking during celebrations and parties; at one point, characters get drunk and sing a somewhat suggestive song. But ultimately, heroine Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan) is presented as a surprisingly modern, strong female role model. Teen girls may swoon at the movie -- and also find someone to admire.
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What's the story?
IN FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD, Shepherd Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts) spots a new neighbor, Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan), and is immediately taken with her. He proposes marriage, but she rebuffs him. She inherits her uncle's vast but run-down farm and moves away. When Gabriel loses his flock, he leaves, winds up helping save Bathsheba's farm from a fire, and lands a job there. Meanwhile, another neighbor, the older William Boldwood (Michael Sheen) proposes marriage, but Bathsheba likewise rebuffs him. A dashing, devilish soldier (Tom Sturridge) succeeds in winning her hand, but his gambling threatens to destroy the farm. Bathsheba continues to struggle to stand on her own two feet, but will she ever find true love?
Is it any good?
The casting is picture-perfect, with Schoenaerts -- formerly a brute -- playing an appealingly soft-spoken soul, and Sheen a tender, heartbroken one. Sturridge is the villain of the piece, but he's allowed to be devilish and dashing, with a seductive side. And Mulligan shines in a surprisingly, refreshingly modern role: a woman who's capable of handling her own business and doesn't require a man to fulfill her or control her.
Danish director Thomas Vinterberg (The Celebration, The Hunt) previously seemed to be preoccupied with cruelty and pain, but somehow his Far from the Madding Crowd -- adapted from the 1874 Thomas Hardy novel -- winds up as a beautifully pulsing, organic creation. This kind of movie is often a festival for costume fetishists, but here the fresh, full-blooded cinematography emphasizes natural spaces and colors; Vinterberg is clearly more interested in the characters' emotional, romantic entanglements than in being stuffy or classy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Far from the Madding Crowd's violence. Which scenes were most shocking/upsetting to you? Were the deaths at all gratuitous, or are they essential to the plot? Did you expect violent content in a romantic literary adaptation?
How is sex portrayed in the movie? Does it seem to be a positive or negative force in the characters' lives?
For those who've read the book/seen the earlier movie, how does this adaptation differ from the original novel? How does it differ from the previous movie adaptation(s)? Which version do you like best?
How frequently do characters drink in the movie? What role does drinking play in their lives? Are there realistic consequences?
- In theaters: May 1, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: August 4, 2015
- Cast: Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen
- Director: Thomas Vinterberg
- Studio: Fox Searchlight
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Book Characters
- Character Strengths: Integrity, Perseverance
- Run time: 119 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some sexuality and violence
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