'Lady Chatterley's Lover' Review
December 2, 2022
Life is coming together nicely for Connie Reid (Emma Corrin). She’s marrying the man of her dreams (or at least she thinks she is), Baronet Clifford Chatterley, who heads off to the British frontlines for the Great War the next morning. Connie awaits in London anxiously, knowing that Clifford will return home to take her to his estate of Wragby, where they will continue his family legacy.
Clifford does return home, but not in one piece. He’s become paralyzed from the waist down, becoming a bit of a burden as Connie must tend to him, along with bringing the estate back to its former glory. There’s also now an absence of intimacy between the newlyweds, as Clifford’s paralysis also affects his you-know-what. The prospect of having an heir has all but vanished, sending Connie into a downward spiral of loneliness and feeling like a failure.
Longing for companionship (and then some), Connie finds solace in the company of the estate’s gamekeeper, Oliver Mellors (Jack O’Connell). He seems to be the opposite of Clifford, with a rough exterior from the war, but a gentle soul underneath. Of course, things become steamy rather quickly, with the pair meeting in the woods quite often to indulge in their lusts.
Before Fifty Shades of Gray lit up e-readers and books clubs around the world, D.H. Lawrence’s 1928 novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, had been banned and caused massive public uproar for its “sexual promiscuity” and use of a certain four-letter word that begins with F and ends with K. The 1955 French film adaptation was immediately banned for “promoting adultery,” (and also because it wasn’t very good). But with the Fifty Shades trilogy grossing over $1 billion, and Netflix becoming the new home for titillating material such as the 365 Days films, it seems appropriate for this classic novel to be told with modern sensibilities.
Luckily, director Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre - winner of several breakthrough awards for her debut feature, Mustang - doesn’t revel in the “smuttiness” within the sexually explicit material like the films mentioned in the preceding paragraph. There’s a true sense of character exploration, both physical and emotional, in the several sequences where the actors bare all. Benoît Delhomme’s cinematography is lush and dreamy, capturing these moments with shallow focus, exemplifying the character’s attitude toward living in the moment, not looking at the dangers that the future holds.
Corrin and O'Connell are a great pair as the two free spirits in a land of stiff upper lips. It’s just a shame that the two of them are caught in material that can’t rise above conventionalism, nor has enough inertia to sustain interest across its two-hour runtime. Will the pair be caught in the act? How will Clifford react? Will they run away together to start a happier life? It’s all standard stuff, never breaking free from the Masterpiece Theater chains that have a grip on this specific British genre. Clermont-Tonnerre also butchers the film’s initially poignant cut-to-black final scene, ending this story on a mistimed note.
Book club moms have a new film to swoon over in Lady Chatterley's Lover. Luckily, they can do it in the privacy of their homes on Netflix, and not out in public, where the prospect of a few gasps and quivers from the NC-17 material may cause embarrassment. People looking for more underneath the carnality might be a little disappointed, but there’s enough on the surface to keep attractions piqued.