Adaptations. Remakes. We are far too familiar with these in the world of entertainment. It seems every week there’s an announcement of a new movie, tv series, or book adaptation or remake in the works. So when I learned in March 2021 that D. H. Lawrence’s classic 1928 novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover would be adapted into another film for Netflix, I was a bit skeptical. It’s not easy to bring a fresh perspective and approach to a story that’s been previously explored.
First published in 1928, Lady Chatterley’s Lover is English author D. H. Lawrence’s last novel and became one of the most discussed books in the 20th century for several reasons. It was the first work to depict female sexual exploration in graphic detail while portraying an affair between two married people from different classes. This resulted in the book getting banned in many parts of the world, including the UK where Penguin publishers went to trial under the Obscene Publications Act. After the court battle, Penguin won the rights to publish the full version of the book in 1960.
We’ve had our fair share of entertainment content based on the novel within the stage, on screen, and radio beginning in 1955 with the French film of the same title directed by Marc Allégret and starring Danielle Darrieux and Erno Crisa. It was initially banned in New York because of its “promotion of adultery,” which was then overturned by the US Supreme Court in 1959. A new version directed by Just Jaeckin in 1981 starred Sylvia Kristel and Nicholas Clay, and in 2006 the French drama film Lady Chatterley starring Marina Hands, and Jean-Louis Coulloc’h was released. Most recently, there was BBC’s 2015 television movie starring Holliday Grainger and Richard Madden.
My skepticism however was quickly abandoned. The cinematography combined with the strong on-camera chemistry between the two leads makes this film a standout in the list of Lady Chatterley’s Lover adaptations. With a script written by David Magee (Life of Pi, Finding Neverland) 2022’s film is centered on the themes of nature and connection, introducing the story to a new generation in the 21st century.
Directed by French filmmaker Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre (The Mustang, Rabbit), and produced by Laurence Mark (Jerry Maguire, The Greatest Showman), Lady Chatterley’s Lover stars Emma Corrin who recently won a Golden Globe for their portrayal of Princess Diana in season four of The Crown, and Jack O’Connell, known for his roles in television and film including Skins, The Runaway, Godless, Unbroken, and ’71. The cast also includes Matthew Duckett, Joely Richardson, Faye Marsay, and Ella Hunt.
Set in postwar England in 1917, we are introduced to Sir Clifford Chatterley (Duckett) who marries Constance/Connie (Corrin), becoming Lady Chatterley, and their life of immense wealth and privilege. Their marriage soon faces challenges when Clifford returns from the First World War paralyzed from the waist down. This results in the couple moving to the Chatterley’s beautiful Wragby estate and hiring new staff. Clifford begins to treat Connie as his personal nurse instead of his wife, and is not able to fulfill her sexual needs, leaving her feeling exhausted, unwanted, and lonely.
When Connie’s sister Hilda (Marsay) visits, she quickly notices that Connie’s health is suffering as a result of Clifford’s dependence on her. Hilda insists they hire a caregiver for Clifford which will alleviate stress from Connie. They hire Mrs. Bolton (Richardson), a widow who took care of Clifford when he was much younger. As Connie’s health begins to improve, she decides to explore her newfound independence by walking the grounds of Wragby and its beautiful surroundings.
Her outdoor adventures lead her to befriending the estate’s gamekeeper, Oliver Mellors (O’Connell), a former army lieutenant who she feels very comfortable around. As their friendship intensifies, it soon turns into an affair filled with passionate sex – and lots of it. The film does not shy away from the explicit sexual acts found in the novel – but not in a gratuitous way. The steamy scenes aptly portray the all-consuming passion between Connie and Oliver. This is thanks to the incredible synergy between Emma Corrin and Jack O’Connell. Their performances required emotional and physical diligence which they seemed to have accomplished effortlessly.
As their relationship continues, it becomes evident that Connie and Oliver share something deep and far beyond just a physical relationship. The town however begins to circulate gossip, and Connie’s friend Mrs. Flint (Hunt) is upset by the very idea. Connie must then decide what type of life she truly wants, no matter what society would think of her, and no matter the consequences (both socially and financially).
The latter part of the film deviates a bit from the original novel making the viewer guess how it will end which I really enjoyed since I was familiar with the novel’s ending. The story itself is not new, but this adaptation represents a new approach to a classic tale.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover will premiere on December 2nd on Netflix.
Helen Roumeliotis is the Editor-in-Chief at Popternative and currently a PhD candidate in Cultural Mediations at Carleton University. She enjoys writing and learning about how pop culture can be used as tools for education. You can follow her on Instagram @helenroum.
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