Finally! Poor Emma Corrin just wants what everyone wants: a passionate sexually fulfilling relationship. Lord knows the poor girl has tried: Princess Diana left her unfulfilled, and Harry Styles chose a man over her. Come on, let a lady live a little. DH Lawrence finally satisfies our poor Emma, even though Lady Chatterly is frustrated by men in her life too. But hey, a good lover’s a good lover.
Corrin plays DH Lawrence’s Constance Reid. Daughter of artistic parents, Constance is raised a more worldly woman, full of life and love. She elects to marry Sir Clifford Chatterly (Matthew Duckett) before he goes off to the Great War. Alas, the war paralyzes Clifford from the waist down, ruining any sexual relationship Constance and Clifford could have. Desperate for an heir, Clifford lets his Lady Chatterly find a man to produce an heir for the couple. Despite Clifford’s many male friends, Constance is drawn to Oliver Mellors (Jack O’Connell), working as a groundskeeper on the Chatterly Estate.
As a book adaptation, Lady Chatterly’s lover is a mixed bag. David Magee switches the perspective a bit, focusing more on Constance’s plight and less on Clifford. While this gives us more time with Constance and Oliver, it does remove some of the allegorical force of DH Lawrence’s novel. There’s all sorts of power dynamics left underexplored: rich vs. poor, male vs. female, technology vs. nature, etc that the movie only hints at. In the end, the movie chooses to focus instead on the nature of love. Can love only be a mental act? Or only be a physical one? What are the consequences of “unacceptable” love in a cold society? Lady Chatterly’s Lover spends its running time showing us these experiments through Constance and her relationships with Oliver and Clifford.
And oh boy, do I mean show. Lady Chatterly’s Lover is as steamy of a romance I have seen since probably Bridgerton. The movie takes its time isolating Emma Corrin’s Constance from her carnal desires. Living only for mental stimulation excites Clifford, but it frustrates Emma, who sees her personality get worse as she goes unfulfilled. At first she finds Jack O’Connell’s Oliver abrasive and off-putting. However, quickly, she understands that he’s going through the same frustration she is, just in a different way. That slow build up explodes in as satisfying a way possible, as Corrin and O’Connell make you blush a little with how excited they are to find the lost pleasure in their lives. And the sex only gets hotter as the pair get more comfortable with one another, fusing physical connection with a mental one. What people would call love.
If Before Sunrise represents a mental connection; Fifty Shades of Grey is a pure physical connection; and Lady Chatterly’s Lover is that mixture of the two. I guess being who I am, I choose Before Sunrise…but I think long and hard about a Lady Chatterly’s Lover life, and how exhilarating that might be. I don’t know what it says that I don’t even consider Fifty Shades. Maybe I can read at a 5th grade level? Sure let’s go with that.