Superb performances by Emma Corrin and Jack O’Connell as D.H. Lawrence’s errant lovers transform actor-turned-director Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre’s intelligent adaptation of the 1928 novel into a film of incredible beauty and, yes, sensuality.
It has taken a Frenchman to FINALLY drag D.H. Lawrence’s succès de scandale out of the gutter and into the mainstream where it belongs. The novel may be liberally peppered with the word fuck, used as both an adjective and a verb, but when used in the context of a love affair that is not only passionate but a direct affront against the soul-destroying classist system of immediate post-World War I England, Lawrence’s wording and David Magee’s screenplay seem exactly right.
Emma Corrin (fresh from her triumph as the young Princess Diana in seasons four and five of “The Crown”) is magnificent as the title character who marries Sir Clifford Chatterley (Matthew Duckett, excellent), an officer returning from the Great War paralyzed from the waist down and impotent. He encourages his wife to have sex with another man (or men), so she can bear him an heir to his great country estate at Wragby, a property held afloat on the backs of much-abused coalminers.
Sir Clifford, of course, had meant this sperm donor to come from the British upper classes. When he discovers that the object of his wife’s affections is Mellors, his handsome gamekeeper, he is enraged, refuses to give Lady Chatterley a divorce, and ejects her from Wragby without a penny to her name. Can the love between Lady Chatterley and Mellors survive?
Jack O’Connell’s performance as Mellors exudes both virility and gentleness, all the while maintaining his character’s inner dignity. For the first time on screen, you feel that Mellors is being played as Lawrence intended. The sex scenes are graphic and satisfying, even if you cannot thoroughly shake the feeling while watching that they are extensively choreographed.
As for the ending: Beautifully handled; it perfectly blends with the spirit of the rest of the movie.