Someone seems to have been on autopilot throughout the making of this adaptation of Posy Simmond’s graphic novel take on Far From the Madding Crowd
… and we have to assume that someone is director Stephen Frears. Scene follows scene in a leisurely manner, without any kind of drive or pace developing. Small wonder the local kids moan that nothing ever happens in their village – despite the incidents in the plot, that’s very much how it feels to the viewer.
It’s not the fault of the cast, who all seem to be putting the effort in. Standouts are Tamsin Greig as Beth, long-suffering wife of philandering author Nicholas Hardiman (Roger Allam), while Jessica Barden and Charlotte Christie as meddling teens Jody and Casey give zestful performances.
Dominic Cooper, on the other hand, can’t make his cartoony rock star seem anything like a real person, and unfortunately nor can Gemma Arterton in the title role. Tamara Drewe is something of a blank; we really only see her through the (mostly lustful) eyes of others, and consequently don’t get to know her. The script tells us bits about her history, but these glimpses never add up to a full person. It might have helped if we got to hear more of her own writing – everyone in the film is presumably familiar with her column – but the film doesn’t share her inner voice with us. Maybe this is deliberate – I seem to remember feeling the same way about her character in the book, which I haven’t read since its original serialisation in The Guardian – but if so, I’m not convinced everyone involved in the making of the film was aware of it.
Not an unwatchable film, then (and unlike Frears’ last, Cheri, I at least stayed awake) but for a film ostensibly about lust and desire, it’s an oddly passionless affair.