Despite numerous versions out there, this is the first adaptation of the erotic romance by D. H. Lawrence that I’ve seen. The book was banned for obscenities in five countries, including the US. Per Brittanica.com, it remains one of the few novels in English literary history that addresses female sexual desire. Not having read the book, I can’t say if this Netflix version stays true to the novel but it sure depicts plenty of steamy scenes of Connie, aka Lady Chatterley (Emma Corrin), in various sexual acts with her lover Oliver Mellors (Jack O’Connell) who’s employed at her husband’s estate.
At first, it seems Connie is just bored from taking care of her paraplegic husband and feeling lonely from lack of intimacy. The first time she and Oliver get it on feels more like a physical release for the characters, but then it grows deeper into love.
Corrin and O’Connell have such feverish chemistry and are so committed to their roles which are naturally filled with intimate scenes. They’re the kind of unapologetic sex scenes that make me wonder ‘how in the world do they do that?!’ even though they’re likely tame compared to shows like Game of Thrones on premium cable. Corrin in particular is basically acting in the buff for more than half of the movie, yet it doesn’t feel sleazy thanks to the sensitive female lens from director Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre. The atmospheric rain scene where both characters run naked is apparently spontaneously shot and it must have felt liberating for the actors.
Now the adultery is actually Clifford’s own idea, suggesting to Connie that she find a suitable lover to provide an heir for the family. Of course, a gamekeeper isn’t exactly what Clifford has in mind, especially since he is an unabashedly classist who equates his workers as nothing more than his farm animals. Connie absolutely detests Clifford’s aristocratic arrogance–his outburst and rudeness towards Oliver when his motorized wheelchair breaks down proves to be a dealbreaker for Connie.
On top of the sexual freedom that Connie discovers she can no longer live without, there’s the obvious psychological suffocation she wants to be free of. The class system aspect doesn’t seem as fully developed as the focus is so much more on the sexual bond between the two lovers. By the same token, there’s also an unhealthy bond that develops between Clifford and his much older caretaker Mrs. Bolton (Joely Richardson, who had played Lady Chatterley in the 1983 BBC series), which this version merely hinted at.
As my intro to this classic tale of forbidden passion, it certainly has a lot of memorable elements, though it took me a while to warm up to the characters, especially Connie. At times she acts more like a spoiled brat than a tortured soul, so I empathize with her no-nonsense sister Hilda’s stern remark about her ‘improper’ relationship. Faye Marsay is excellent in the role and I wish to see more of her in prominent roles.
Overall it’s a handsomely mounted period drama with lovely costume design and gorgeous locations in Wales. The cinematography is light and airy, though the blue/green filter can be distracting. Isabella Summers‘ score has a dreamy quality though the music depicting high tension sounds too ominous at times. It likely isn’t going to rank as one of my favorite period pieces, though it made me curious to check out the previous film adaptations.
Have you seen Lady Chatterley’s Lover? What did YOU think?