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Heart of Oak

Those filmgoers of an age to recall the Julie Christie / Alan Bates / Terence Stamp 1967 version of Thomas Hardy’s great love story may arrive at the cinema braced for disappointment. And certainly the opening shot of Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan) in leather coat and trousers (in 1870?) does not allay fears. But the story and the exquisite acting performances draw you in.

Ann Benton, pastor’s wife, Guildford

Figure Image
Miss Everdene and Gabriel Oak| photo: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Thomas Vinterberg
119mins. Cert. 12A

No one writes unrequited love like Thomas Hardy. And Matthias Schoenaerts, as Gabriel Oak, plays it with a wonderful blend, shown in every fibre of his expression, of stoicism and tenderness. His portrayal of manliness and faithfulness is biblically wonderful. As Bathsheba acknowledges, near the end of the film, he has ‘protected her and stood by her’ through all her ghastly and wilful mistakes in life.

Twists and turns

The other suitors for Bathsheba’s hand are suitably roguish (in the case of the mousta-chioed Sergeant Troy – Tom Sturridge) and touchingly lonely, awkward and, later, credibly deranged (in the case of Mr Boldwood – Michael Sheen).

Who gets the girl? No spoilers here. But even those who are familiar with the story will follow the twists and turns of this adaptation with interest. The only failure, for this reviewer, is the Fanny Robin / Sergeant Troy subplot which is far too rushed to be emotionally engaging.

But how inspiring, encouraging and enjoyable to see a positive portrayal of masculinity – literally head and shoulders above most modern male heroes. Here is strength with faithful sacrificial love and so there are many echoes in the film of the greatest love story of all. Go see.