Nearly a century after D.H. Lawrence wrote Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Netflix has released a brand new adaptation of this scandalous story, that serves to present this narrative for the modern audience. Directed by French actress Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre, the film explores the affair that starts between Constance Chatterley and Oliver Mellors after Constance’s husband, Clifford Chatterley, is injured during the war. Matthew Fogarty reviews.
The story, which is infamous for its sexual nature, was banned in several countries for many years after its initial publication. Therefore, this adaptation faces the issue of portraying the sexuality of the story, in a generation where this type of content is common place. I feel Clermont-Tonnerre does an adequate job modernising this story for today’s audience, however I do not consider this version of the story to be outstanding.
The cinematography of the film is far from what you might expect from a period piece of this nature. Benoît Delhomme’s camerawork is erratic, and plays into the sudden and forbidden love affair the two characters fall into. Despite my appreciation for this diversion from the norms of the genre, I feel that this choice does not serve the characters or story as much as it should. The muted tones of the cinematography make the experience of watching this film somewhat lifeless and flat.
Corrin shines as the high point of this adaptation
Fresh off their star turn in Netflix’s The Crown playing Princess Diana, Emma Corrin pulls off another lead role in this adaptation. For me Corrin shines as the high point of this adaptation. Their vulnerability and willingness to embrace the erotic nature of the role, serves to paint a convincing portrayal of a woman who is in desperate need of love and touch.
On the other hand, Jack O’Connell’s Oliver Mellors failed to capture my imagination as the reserved gamekeeper who plays the titular lover. An underdeveloped character portrayal which is played with little for the audience to dig into. O’Connell is a great actor, so my disappointment at his role in this film was considerable. Corrin and O’Connell’s chemistry have moments that work well, however, the scenes between them often feel very staged and the passion needed to play this affair seems lacking.
Fails to extend [the exploration of gender and class roles] any further that they are presented originally
The original novel is renowned for its class commentary and exploration of gender roles versus class roles. I feel that this adaptation fails to extend these ideas any further than they are presented originally. No interesting evolutions of the concepts are written to make this adaptation stand apart from the rest. After the mainstream success of many erotic dramas and thrillers in the late 20th and 21st centuries, I feel that this story needs to lean in further to the social commentary that surrounds the plot.
Overall, I believe this version of Lady Chatterley’s Lover to be a serviceable vision of this famous story, but a lack of dynamic performances, and simplification of the film’s themes, leaves lots to be desired. I would suggest to anyone wanting to experience this narrative, to read the original text over watching this release.
Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.
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