The leading men are successful. Alan Bates, in a change of pace, is the loyal shepherd. Terence Stamp is a suitably vile Sgt. Troy, and Peter Finch makes Boldwood strong and honorable in his love for Bathsheba. Miss Christie, however, is too sweet and superficial, and so is the film.
Screenwriter Frederic Raphael has managed to preserve the book's broad vision while clarifying its bucolic speech. His most valuable ally is Director John Schlesinger (Darling), who displays the best sense of Victorian time and place since David Lean in Great Expectations, alternating his stars with a brilliant cast of minor players who serve as a Greek chorus in tragicomic peasant roles.
Julie Christie, Peter Finch, Terence Stamp and Alan Bates are variedly handsome and have their many effective moments, but there is little they can ultimately and lastingly do to overcome the basic banality of their characters and, to a certain degree, their lines.
The environment is more impressive than the slow, mawkish drama it contains, and the peasants are more assertive and colorful than the main characters. Scenes of sheepherding, farm gatherings, harvest suppers and assemblies at markets and fairs are more energetic and entertaining than the bloodless confrontations of the principals.