Movies adapted from graphic novels tend to involve costumes, fireballs, and copious gunfire, but this forthcoming British drama by Stephen Frears (Dangerous Liaisons, The Grifters, High Fidelity, The Queen) looks more like a 19th-century pastoral. That’s because Posy Simmonds, whose cartoon strip Tamara Drewe debuted in the Guardian in 2005 and was collected in book form two years later, based her modern-day story on Thomas Hardy’s 1874 novel Far From the Madding Crowd. The title character, a sexy columnist for a London newspaper, returns to her hometown in rural Dorset and immediately turns the heads of an adulterous and self-regarding mystery novelist, a smug rock star on his way down, and a poor but good-hearted handyman at a neighboring writers’ retreat. Some things change—the valentine that spurs the action in Hardy becomes a mischievous e-mail in the comic—but some things never will, like the lush English countryside and the cruel force of desire. Literate, perceptive, and cleanly plotted, Simmonds’s comic is tailor-made for the screen, and Frears has such a tender touch (he first gained notice in the U.S. with the pioneering gay romance My Beautiful Laundrette) that this promises to be one of the fall’s more substantial releases.
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