TV film review: Lady Chatterley’s Lover (2015), adapted and directed by Jed Mercurio
Tl;dr: Okay, but WTF have they done to the book?
While I have a sort of love-hate thing going on with DH Lawrence, I do like Lady Chatterley’s Lover and have read it a few times. The Sean Bean/Joely Richardson version is fairly close to the book if I remember it correctly, the French version is very long but not bad.
And then there’s this version.
The basic premise is the same as always: Lady Constance Chatterley (Holliday Grainger) has a crippled husband, Clifford (James Norton), and begins a sexual relationship with the gamekeeper, Oliver Mellors (Richard Madden). Love ensues. The difference is in the execution of everything around this, and here’s where you might have an easier time if you don’t know the details beforehand.
Before the TV film aired, the news was that this version would put the focus on Clifford and make him into a sympathetic character. After all, he was paralysed from the waist down in the Great War. Indeed, this version does succeed in making Clifford sympathetic. He’s in a wheelchair and can’t make love to his wife anymore and feels less of a man – and she goes off shagging in the woods with the gamekeeper. What a nice lady she is.
Before we delve deeper into everything that’s wrong with this adaptation, here’s what I did like:
- Beautiful scenery and setting
- Gorgeous period clothing.
- Robb Stark as a super brooding gamekeeper. (Okay, fine, he does over-do it!)
- They actually went to a real colliery – or at least it looks like they did. (The last mine in Nottinghamshire closed down this year, so that’s a whole piece of history gone.)
- Cute dog!
- Adorable little chicks.
- The names “Herbert” and “Frieda” were used as middle names for the Chatterleys which was a nice touch. (DH = David Herbert, Frieda was his partner.)
Okay, if you don’t want spoilers because you’ve never read the book, you can stop reading now. Watch it and make your own mind up. I wouldn’t rate it higher than 3/5 because I think it’s been changed too much and not for the better.
If you’re still reading: hello! Let’s keep going!
Things I didn’t like … it basically boils down to things being too condensed and/or too changed from the book. First of all, everyone is so YOUNG. The only people who appear to be above 30 is the housekeeper and the butler. The matronly nurse? Pretty young lady of 25, tops. Holliday Granger is probably older than she looks, but Connie looks about 20.
The characters don’t look as described in other ways either, e.g. Mellors still isn’t ginger, but neither was Sean Bean, so that’s fair enough.
Mrs Bolton (Jodie Comer) isn’t just half the age of her book self, she doesn’t really have that creepy thing going on with Clifford, nor is she conspiring with Connie to keep her ladyship’s secret. Her entire character and purpose have been changed, so now she’s a young widow with a dislike of the upper classes because she didn’t get enough compensation when her husband died in a mining accident six years earlier.
This adaptation’s Clifford is nice, and he’s just totally misunderstood, man. Book Clifford is an insufferable snob who became gradually worse after his injury and decided to have a pity party for the rest of his life. He’s not meant to be a nice but misunderstood character, he’s meant to be unsympathetic – just look at his attitude to the miners in the book.
Bertha Mellors is shown near the beginning, but then disappears entirely and is never spoken of again. We’ll assume they’re no longer married. Clifford grants Connie a divorce without causing too much trouble. Connie never goes to the continent to pretend to have an affair with some random foreigner. Connie’s bohemian past does not exist. The pubic hair flowers are missing, as is “Lady Jane” (“John Thomas” does get a mention, though). The lovers don’t meet up on a boat. There’s no “why are you talking like a Yorkshireman?” either. All the details that really make the book, you know? Gone.
That’s what bothers me and why I didn’t think it was excellent. It was a very well done attempt, but could have done better. If they had gone with original Bolton and original Clifford, that would have been a good start.
“BUT WHAT ABOUT THE SEX? Tell me about the sex!” Look, it was shown on a Sunday evening on the BBC, so it was never going to be hardcore porn (thank goodness). You get sensual yet not-very-revealing close-ups of limbs and backs and stuff, and not a lot of either. If you expected lots and lots of sex you might be disappointed. If you don’t like to watch sex scenes, then there are only a couple of them or something, and you don’t see anything private.
If you’re not bothered about the characters’ personality changes, all the bits that are missing because they tried cramming it all in in about an hour and a half, or haven’t read (or read but can’t remember) the book then it’s an okay film. For me personally, despite liking the actors and stuff, meh. I’d rather watch Sean Bean, because at least it’s a film he doesn’t die in it for once.
3 out of 5 motorised wheelchairs.