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Lady Chatterly’s Lover

Year: 2022
Production Co: 3000 Pictures
Director: Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre
Writer: David Magee
Cast: Emma Corrin, Jack O'Connell, Joely Richardson, Mathew Duckett

I love the story of Lady Chatterley's Lover. After reading the book years ago, seeing director Just Jaeckin's 1981 version from noted shlock pedlars Cannon Films and a further version in 2007 from French director Pascale Ferran, there was no way I wouldn't watch this film.

The only question I had about it was whether it would add anything. D H Lawrence's tale about an affair between a noblewoman and a commoner is like Joan of Arc, Dracula or Sherlock Holmes – endlessly open to reinterpretation and ripe for each subsequent generation to discover when they realise there's something in them that talks about their own times. Unsurprisingly, the Wikipedia page of the novel lists about 20 adaptations or homages in film and TV.

Lawrence had three main themes subsequent screenwriters and directors have usually drawn on – class, industrialisation and the animal nature of sexual attraction, and director Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre, from a script by David McGee, seems to give them equal weight.

And because films can rarely be as detailed as movies, elements that haven't been shown very much before (like Mellors' former wife's ne'er-do-well new partner) can be included.

Emma Corrin is Constance Chatterley and Jack O'Connell is Oliver Mellors, an actor coming into his own gruff, masculine persona after his slightly childlike turn in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken.

After marrying the genteel Clifford (Matthew Duckett), Connie looks forward to the life of a Lady, and when he comes back from fighting in the First World War paralysed from the waist down, she resolves to be just as devoted to her husband as she would have been otherwise, accompanying him home to his ancestral home of Wragby Hall and tending to him as a wife and a private nurse.

But (and in something that wasn't really touched on so explicitly in other versions or the book) doing so exhausts her thanks to Clifford's insecurity about being away from her, and at her outspoken sister Hilda's insistence, Clifford hires a full time carer, Mrs Bolton Joely Richardson).

Connie is then free to a life of walks in the countryside, entertaining Clifford's guests and occasionally going into the small mining village nearby to interact with the locals.

But everything's changed. After making a slightly successful career as a writer, Clifford then becomes obsessed with class differences between he and the miners, intending to buy or invent better ways to run the factories and considering the workers mere tools to ensure the efficient movement of economics.

It puts him more at odds with Connie, who – after marrying into but not being born into nobility – is far more egalitarian in her political outlook, considering all people equal. The gulf between them, to say nothing of the lack of physical intimacy from her husband even despite his injury, makes her ripe to both notice and catch the eye of the property's gruff groundskeeper, Mellors.

She becomes more fascinated by the man and his meagre but peaceful surroundings, and because she's so neglected by her husband and starving for attention, she pours her heart out to him for want of anyone better to tell and the two fall into bed together.

With Clifford starting to talk about having an heir, even one Constance has conceived with another man if necessary, it's a balancing act between conducting her affair with Mellors and possibly having his child, and the disgust Clifford will certainly know when it becomes known Connie is pregnant to a commoner, the kind of person he's come to hate.

de Clermont-Tonnerre understands the sensual nature of the surroundings and scenes from the book – she brings the naked rain dancing scene to life lushly and vividly, for example, but she doesn't try to reinvent the wheel, and that might be the problem with the movie.

Lawrence's themes were pretty plain to see if you care to look, and other filmmakers (even in the soft porn 1981 version) have plumbed them already. This film doesn't really have much reason to exist.

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