‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ Review: A steamy affair that makes way to examine the lesson

“It’s a love story.” These are the words uttered by Ms. Bolton (Joely Richardson) in Netflix’s final moments Lady Chatterley’s lover to a group of women gossiping about the events we have just witnessed. As nurse to Lord Clifford Chatterley (Matthew Duckett), Mrs Bolton had a front row seat to the spectacle of Lady Constance Chatterley’s (The crown Star Emma Corrin) affair with the estate’s game warden, Oliver Mellors (Jack O’Connell).

But this film is much more than a love story.

You’ve probably heard about it Lady Chatterley’s lover, the hot novel by DH Lawrence that was the subject of a controversial trial in Britain in 1960. The novel was banned in the US, Canada, Australia, India and Japan for obscenity. Nonetheless, the book sold millions of copies while also causing mass shock and dismay due to its explicit sexual descriptions and repeated use of the F-word and C-word. What’s not to like?

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what is Lady Chatterley’s lover around?

Emma Corrin as Lady Constance, Matthew Duckett as Clifford.
Photo credit: Seamus Ryan / Netflix

Lady Chatterley’s lover tells the story of Constance “Connie” Reid, a wealthy artist’s daughter who marries Sir Clifford Chatterley just before he returns to the front during the First World War. Directed by Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre with a screenplay by David Magee, the film opens with scenes from the couple’s wedding day, where Clifford’s father, Sir Geoffrey Chatterley (Alistair Findlay), gives a toast that sums up exactly what happened to his son new bride is expected.

“So, onto Clifford and Connie, our new hope for an heir from Ragby,” says Sir Geoffrey.

“Oh father, you know that is not so only why we got married,” says Clifford.

“Why else would a baronet marry?” Sir Geoffrey answers.

Despite the newlyweds’ public insistence on the marriage being purely a marriage of love, the veil slips later in the film when Clifford returns from the war and clarifies that an heir is expected from Ragby. “It means a lot to the people here,” Clifford tells his wife. However, Clifford is paralyzed from the waist down after being injured during World War I, and following Clifford’s injury, Connie and Clifford no longer have a sexual relationship.

With the pressure still on, Clifford makes it clear to Connie that he would like her to sleep with another man in order to conceive an heir, though he specifically sets rules that prevent her from “giving yourself completely to him,” and her instructs to “govern your emotions accordingly” while doing so. “The mechanical act of sex is nothing compared to a life together,” he says. As a wealthy aristocrat, he also clarifies that Connie avoids “the wrong kind of guy” and only should consider upper-class men as candidates for begetting an heir.

This moment is a turning point in the film. We see Corrin’s Connie barely contain her anger and nausea at the suggestion, though her husband barely notices (he never really does). We see Connie coming to terms with the dawning realization that she really is just a vessel for an heir. While Connie seeks solace in a small cabin on the estate, seeking a way out and freedom from the expectations that are closing in on her, Corrin paints a portrait of a character in deep turmoil, and it is moving to watch.

And “managing your feelings” isn’t exactly what fate has in store for Connie…

Lady Chatterley’s lover is a romance, but also a story about class.

A woman is standing in a field in front of a large property.


Photo credit: Seamus Ryan / Netflix

While Ms Bolton’s words are very true of the Netflix adaptation of the novel, the film is also a story about class. During her solitude, Connie begins spending time with Mellors, the estate’s game warden, and it is here that she finds tenderness, caring, passion and yes, love – the elements that have been missing from her own marriage. But in Clifford’s eyes, this working-class man is exactly the “wrong guy” he pompously declared unsuitable earlier.

This particular adaptation feels more instructional commentary than previous versions – Jed Mercurio’s 2015 film starring Holiday Grainger and Richard Madden, Pascale Ferran’s 2006 film and the 1993 BBC TV series starring none other than Richardson with Sean Bean – the, despite being discontinued over 100 years ago, feels relevant amid today’s cost-of-living crisis, which is already causing strains in people’s relationships.

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Corrin and O’Connell have intense on-screen chemistry and you can’t help but be drawn into their convincingly passionate love affair. O’Connell delivers a seductive and complex Mellors, treated badly and bossily by his aristocratic employer, Clifford, and acutely aware of the vulnerability of his position in the love triangle.

Lady Chatterley’s lover is of course frankly steamy.

As their rendezvous develops, so do the sex scenes, imbued with freedom by director De Clermont-Tonnerre. It is clear that this relationship is presented as a liberation from the emotionless and rigid aristocracy and oppressive class structures that dominate society. We see Corrin and O’Connell walking naked through fields making love in nature – they inhabit the wilderness and their love is portrayed as untamed.

A couple begins to kiss in a forest.

Connie and Oliver Mellors (Jack O’Connell).
Photo credit: Netflix

During their second encounter together, De Clermont-Tonnerre inserts a cunnilingus scene that zooms in on Corrin’s face and captures her facial expression. There is a prioritization of Connie’s pleasure in this scene; When she comes, she gets up and goes out.

But beyond their obviously strong physical connection, Connie’s own story is about challenging and ultimately rejecting the uncomfortable privilege that surrounds her. She refuses the social obligation to keep up appearances and to provide an heir at the request of her husband (who, of course, does not even ask her what she would like to become).

“You and your ruling class!” Connie yells at Clifford and makes her true feelings clear.

Connie and Mellors, both bound by differing struggles of the same power structure that oppresses them both, ultimately find agency by rejecting society’s rules and expectations. In the end, they choose love.

Lady Chatterley’s lover now streaming on Netflix.(opens in a new tab)

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