You can't discuss this movie without discussing the novel of the same name. The movie stays remarkably true to the novel; from character to location. If anything, the movie enhances the novel--through Christopher Eccleston's fantastic performance we see in Jude the light of desire and the crush of defeat.
Though another review characterizes Thomas Hardy's depiction of females as misogynistic, I disagree. The character of Arabella is certainly a villain at her heart, but the character of Sue Bridehead is a mirror of our tragic hero, Jude. Through their interactions, we see not only a stunning performance by Kate Winslet, but also a relationship of equals in misery. Certainly, the males in the novel and movie are depicted at least as wretchedly as the females.
This movie draws the viewer in and gives you insight into Jude's world, from it's optimistic beginning to its tragic end. Definitely not a date movie, but absolutely fine film-making.