Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Review by Leah Kelly

Lady Chatterley’s Lover is one of the most controversial books of the 20th century. Banned in several countries and the subject of a UK trial which allowed the liberalisation of the publishing industry – its publication is an important part of literary history. The plot itself, a Lady falls madly in love with a gamekeeper on her husband’s estate and pursues an affair with him, was enough to make the novel scandalous at the time of it’s writing – 1928. Besides the plot though, what got the novel the most backlash was its graphic sex scenes. For better or worse, this would become the legacy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Naturally, any adaptation must include the sex scenes which made the novel so controversial. This latest adaptation Lady Chatterley’s Lover (Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre, 2022) opted to use the same intimacy coordinator as Normal People (Lenny Abrahamson, 2020) which received glowing praise for the intimacy depicted on screen. This film has that same quality. It feels almost voyeuristic watching the sex scenes which are incredibly intimate and realistic. The main theme of the novel is intimacy and so getting these scenes right was incredibly important. 

Emma Corrin and Jack O’Connell, starring as Lady Chatterley and her gamekeeper Oliver, have incredible chemistry on screen. The romance is believable, and you can see how much they care for one another even when they do not exchange many words. They spend a great deal of their time together raising baby pheasants and reading James Joyce, which is more romantic than it sounds. Matthew Duckett is wonderful in his role as Clifford, Lady Chatterleys husband. He comes off both loathsome and sympathetic depending on which scene you are viewing. Left paralysed from the waist down from his time in WW1, Clifford is now at the mercy of everyone else around him. He can’t keep his wife happy and seems unable to show her any form of warmth or real affection. 

The class theme is handled with enough subtlety that it doesn’t feel like a lecture, which the novel often does. It is still hard to miss though. The film explicitly links Oliver’s capacity to feel more and show more warmth and intimacy with Lady Chatterley with his class, and suggests that Clifford has to be cold and turn his emotions off in order to avoid his guilt about being upper class. 

You won’t have to have read the novel to enjoy this film. Reading it perhaps won’t add to your enjoyment at all, in fact. There are serious liberties taken with this adaptation and they stand as two separate pieces of work. If you’re a fan of historical romances like Pride and Prejudice (Joe Wright, 2005) or Bridgerton (Shonda Rhimes andSarah Dollard, 2020-) then this film should work for you. As a slow paced romantic drama set in the English countryside it will definitely scratch a similar itch. If you’re looking for a faithful adaptation of the novel though, you might want to view some of the other releases. 

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