Lady Chatterley’s Lover (Review) – An Erotic Adaptation That’s Worth The Chatter

DIRECTOR: Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre

CAST: Emma Corrin, Jack O’Connell, Matthew Duckett, Joely Richardson, Ella Hunt, Faye Marsay

RUNNING TIME: 126 mins

CERTIFICATE: 15

BASICALLY…: An unhappily married aristocrat (Corrin) ignites an affair with her groundskeeper (O’Connell)…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

Before Fifty Shades of Grey, before Emmanuelle, and before pretty much any other trashy erotic novel ever, there was D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Considered scandalous at the time of its original publication (so much so that it wasn’t until the 1960s that it became fully available in the United Kingdom), the novel is considered a benchmark for stories about women reclaiming or discovering their sexuality in repressive environments, and to this day is seen as something that was key to kickstarting the sexual revolution of the twentieth century’s latter half.

There have, of course, been more than a few adaptations over the years, both for film and television – one of the more famous versions being director and co-writer Ken Russell’s BBC miniseries starring Joely Richardson and Sean Bean – but this newest rendition, from director Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre and writer David Magee, is a rather interesting one. The novel’s themes of class, desire, and female agency ring truer today than even back when it first caused a scene, so a modern adaptation would do well to reflect the societal changes of the past few years while also remaining the popular love story that it’s become. Sure enough, the film is a lively and titillating interpretation that combines the classic structure with the newer relevancy, all of which makes for an invigorating and, indeed, erotic watch.

The story, as ever, sees a woman named Constance Reid (Emma Corrin) marry into the aristocratic Chatterley family, with the handsome Sir Clifford (Matthew Duckett) as her husband. However, when the Great War leaves him unable to use his legs, he and his new Lady Chatterley move into their countryside manor where their marriage slowly becomes unhappier and, crucially, more sexless. Soon enough, though, Constance strikes up a connection with Oliver Mellors (Jack O’Connell), the estate’s groundskeeper, and before you know it the two of them are going at it like rabbits on cocaine. As their affair continues, though, Constance starts to ponder exactly what kind of life she wishes to live with Oliver, and whether or not she will be happy on her own terms.

While I’m not entirely familiar with the original novel, and therefore have no idea if this is a truly faithful adaptation or not, there’s a strong energy to the storytelling here that makes it easy to see why it became so popular to begin with (aside from all the naughty bits, of course). Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre’s direction is sharp, poised, and fully aware of its own sense of raunch, with the numerous sex scenes between Emma Corrin and Jack O’Connell – both baring quite a bit of themselves throughout – carrying a softcore passion that tastefully conveys their characters’ irresistible passion, without going too far into exploitative territory. It’s made all the more believable by the strong chemistry between both actors, with Corrin in particular bringing a tremendous amount of spirit that makes their rendition of Lady Chatterley feel well-rounded and effortlessly charming (plus, it’s a way better feature vehicle for them than My Policeman, in which their negative-zero chemistry with Harry Styles now sticks out like a sore thumb by comparison).

It’s also a handsome movie to look at, with Benoît Delhomme’s cinematography bringing a surprisingly even mix of drab overcast and tender woodland backdrop to scenes that give the viewer a sensual tingle. The filmmaking manages to drive home the raw eroticism of its central romance, as well as its poignant themes of class and femininity that easily parallel the ongoing struggles in today’s world without feeling too obvious about itself. Occasionally, though, there will be times when David Magee’s script becomes less inclined with its subtext, and makes the themes a bit too obvious through some of the dialogue that can be very on-the-nose. A couple of editing choices, particularly towards the end, feel somewhat random and even slightly disrupt the tender note on which it chooses to close itself out on, a problem that oddly hadn’t been that prominent in the film until these final few minutes.

Largely, though, this version of Lady Chatterley’s Lover is a pretty decent and well-made adaptation that’s erotic, romantic, and above all else compelling, even if you do eventually know how it all ends just from reading the original novel. I don’t exactly know how it compares to some of the other previous adaptations, nor even how it stacks up against the original source material, but I’d bet good money that this is one of the better ones, because there’s a real sense of passion and energy that you don’t often see in a lot of erotic stories nowadays, and it’s one where you can easily get into the plot and characters just as you would a good book, only here there’s an added bonus of naked people every now and then.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Lady Chatterley’s Lover is a handsome adaptation of the classic erotic romance novel, brought to life by some sharp direction and highly spirited lead performances by Emma Corrin and Jack O’Connell, which are enough to overcome some of the more blatant depictions of the novel’s central themes of class and femininity.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover is now available to stream on Netflix.

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