Best known for spending a year in a remote Chinese village for his documentary series Beyond the Clouds, Agland comes down to earth with this, his first fiction film (scripted by David Rudkin). On the edge of the New Forest, the daughter of a sawmill owner (Woof), whose father has hopes for her betterment, loves a woodsman (Sewell), but is edged into marriage to a doctor (MacAninch). Result, tragedy. Underplaying the extreme melodramatics of Thomas Hardy's novel (a self-defeating exercise, perhaps) while hammering home the class theme, the movie feels tired and draggy even at ninety-odd minutes - and the blame rests squarely with Agland, whose direction is flat and uninspired. The scenes simply don't breathe, though the women in particular perform heroic acts of hopeless resuscitation.
Cast and crew