Lady Chatterley’s Lover review | Uneven, yet steamy

In Netflix's version of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Emma Corrin and Jack O’Connell indulge in a steamy, forbidden affair.

Lady Chatterleys Lover jack o'connell


D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover might not be quite as graphic in today’s terms as it was back in 1928, but it was still the equivalent of Fifty Shades of Grey at the time. The novel has been adapted for film and TV repeatedly, but Netflix is bringing us yet another, a little more modern adaptation. 

The titular Lady Chatterley, or Connie (Emma Corrin), is forced to move out to the Chatterley mansion after her husband Clifford (Matthew Duckett) is paralysed in the war. Connie spends her days walking and reading and comes across their news groundsman, Mr Mellors. The two have a silent understanding of their desire for a bit of peace and quiet, but it soon turns to lust and secret trysts in the woods. 

You have to give credit where credit is due; French director Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre tries her best to modernise the story for today’s audiences. Not so much in changing anything drastically but infusing Connie’s character with a little more life and agency. Lady Chatterley’s Lover never feels distinctly feminist, but it’s undoubtedly kinder to Lady Chatterley herself than most adaptations.  

lady chatterley's lover

Credit: Netflix

Emma Corrin is appropriately doe-eyed and innocent as Connie, which only makes her secret sex affair so much more exciting. Female pleasure is central in the film; Connie is seen asking for and enjoying sex. Mr Mellors is even seen enjoying performing oral sex on her, which was relatively unheard of in the 20s, even if they were roaring. While it has lost some effectiveness, the affair between a woman of Connie’s standing and a simple working-class man still feels revolutionary and a bit naughty. 

Jack O’Connell, one of today’s most exciting actors, is as powerful and sexy as Mr Mellors, but the script doesn’t bother exploring his character. It’s quite refreshing; Mellors is the object of desire here, even if Corrin still spends more time nude than he does. 

The two actors have great chemistry together; the attraction makes perfect sense here, and it’s communicated elegantly. While Lady Chatterley’s Lover is sexy and graphic, it never feels vulgar or exploitative. This isn’t a film that treats sex as something dirty; it celebrates the physical connection between two people, which ultimately grows into affection and love. 

Unfortunately, Lady Chatterley’s Lover is let down by so many other elements. Duckett is stiff as Sir Clifford. It might be a conscious choice to make him increasingly off-putting and cold, but Duckett’s acting feels one-note and plain. Joely Richardson, who once played Lady Chatterley herself, makes for a wonderfully warm Mrs Bolton, but her character is never developed. She only appears when it’s convenient and is forgotten as soon as she’s not needed. 

Lady Chatterleys Lover Emma Corrin

Credit: Netflix

While the cinematography by Benoît Delhomme feels organic and natural – the camera is often hand-held and pushing in on the characters in tight close-ups as if to take in all of them – the music, by Isabella Summers tends to be a little intrusive and forceful in otherwise such a gentle film. 

David Magee’s script also takes a little too long to get to the good part. An hour goes by before Mellors and Connie give in to their temptation. This could have been a lot of fun if there was a lot of teasing the audience with their forbidden lust and desire, but that first hour is dreadfully dull. Lady Chatterley’s Lover is a fascinating look at sex as something to be celebrated rather than shunned, but unfortunately, the film is too uneven for its own good. 

Lady Chatterley’s Lover is in cinemas November 25 and streaming on Netflix December 2. 

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