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Gorgeous landscapes, swooning romance, and lovely British accents: you can find them all in Far from the Madding Crowd. Fans of “Downton Abbey” or any BBC/PBS “Masterpiece” costume drama will enjoy this newest film version of Thomas Hardy’s classic novel.

Unencumbered by actually having read the novel or, perhaps more importantly, having seen the beloved 1967 version with Julie Christie, I enjoyed the sweeping English countryside and the independent female protagonist who wants to live on her own terms.

Carey Mulligan is wonderful—smart, spirited, and still vulnerable—as Bathsheba Everdene, a young woman who is sought after by three very different men. Matthias Shoenaerts is also effective as Gabriel Oak, a name that rather obviously suggests his angelic and stalwart nature.

In spite of lovely visuals and great acting, even the uninitiated can tell that the story suffers from the confines of the 2-hour time limit. It is plain that more should be going on internally with many of the characters; the absence of that interior life keeps the plot from developing the way it should.

If you are into stories set in pastoral England, you’ll find much to like here, but this adaptation of Hardy’s novel falls short of a true classic. On disc now. (Fox Searchlight)

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