Lady Chatterley's Lover (2015)
Reviewer: Charity Bishop
The novel Lady Chatterley's Lover has become synonymous with scandalous content, so it is surprising that this recent adaptation is as restrained as it turned out to be. Though condensing the story into a mere ninety minutes downplays the torrid details, it also makes the class warfare and stifling boredom of the heroine less understandable to a modern audience.
The Chatterleys had a perfect life. The spirited, impulsive, and strongly opinionated Constance (Holliday Grainger) married for love and got a fortune too; her husband, Sir Clifford (James Norton) was an aspiring business tycoon. Then the war came, and one explosion changed their perfect reality forever... robbing Clifford of the use of everything below the waist. Since he can no longer be a proper husband, he turns his attentions to business expansion, neglecting in the process his wife, who intends to make the most of it. Her overtures are ignored, her husband thinking instead a child might make her happy... but she does not want a child, she wants the love and physical affection she seeks.
Thus, she forges an intense attachment to her husband's head gardener, Oliver Mellors (Richard Madden). Rough and tumble, from the wrong side of the tracks, and far more cautious about what is socially appropriate than Constance, he cannot help falling in love with the spirited aristocrat. But while their affair flies under the radar, some secrets cannot be kept forever.
Though I have never read the novel or seen any other adaptations of the story, I can still tell that some of the major themes of the book are missing. Condensing the story into such a short amount of time makes it impossible for the affair to carry any emotional weight; there is no build-up, no hint even of lust between them, it's simply that one afternoon after cradling baby chicks in the woods, they tumble into bed together. At the same time, the audience cannot help feeling sorry for Sir Clifford, who is not a bad chap, just a somewhat elitist one (after Oliver nearly hurts himself getting Sir Clifford's auto-chair out of a mud hole, he dismisses it with, "It's his job..."). And Constance's sister being aghast over the idea of her having an affair with someone of the lower class is almost a missed moment; in this version, it's simply not as important as it should be.
However, there are at lot of strengths here; the characters are all likable in their own way, and we feel for them. Rounding out the husband and giving him flavor helps the narrative carry more weight. Its restraint, while still veering into scandalous territory, is admirable if somewhat out of character for the source material. The costumes are beautiful and the cast has good chemistry. And the unraveling events of the latter half of the story are wonderfully paced. It's not a bad film; it's just a bad adaptation in the minds of the purists.
Three sex scenes (one is brief with movement; one has more undressing and caressing, the third involves oral; all three are clothed). Conversation revolves around impotency and a man being unable to have sex; a woman tries to manually arouse her husband (below camera) to no avail. A husband suggests his wife take a lover so she can have a child.
An explosion goes off in a mine, causing deaths; men fall in battle.