Movie Reviews

Movie Review: Lady Chatterley – Sean Bean (Almost) Nude

Written by DH Lawrence, Michael Haggiag, and Ken Russell
Directed by Ken Russell

For those who have read the book(s) by DH Lawrence upon which this British mini-series is based, I’ll leave the comparisons to you. I have not read them although I did know a bit of the story going in.

Lady Constance Chatterley (portrayed by Joely Richardson) is the wife of Clifford (portrayed by James Wilby), a British Lord wounded during his service in World War I. With him being the last of the Chatterly line and the nature of his wound, it would appear the line will die out. Clifford gives her permission to take a lover, but she vows to remain faithful to him.

One day while walking in the woods, she comes across Mellors (portrayed by Sean Bean). He’s a tenant on the manor and quite a disagreeable sort, but also very handsome. As Constance is feeling lonely, he begins to creep into her dreams, even though her husband doesn’t ignore her. Yet he cannot do anything about the physical yearnings she is beginning to have difficulty denying.

When Clifford laments who the estate will go to should there be no heirs, he comes up with the idea of Connie having a child they will raise which again brings up the subject of her taking a lover.

After Connie suffers a near breakdown due to her faithful and unending care of Clifford, he’s persuaded to hire a nurse, Mrs. Bolton (portrayed by Shirley Anne Field). Connie begins to enjoy free time and walks in the woods, where she runs into Mellors again. She feels safe around him, and enjoys spending time watching over the pheasants with him.

Their romance is slow for the most part. Although there’s no denying that Connie is looking for the satisfaction of her physical needs, Mellors does more than that for her. There’s an emotional bond between them that even if Connie were a free woman would not be looked upon favorably. She is of the upper-class socially while Mellors lives in the servant class. Even her taking a lover would be fine to many considering her husband’s condition, providing he is a member of the same class as she.

None of this seems to matter to Connie, who seems to be enjoying having it all with a rich husband at the house and a dedicated lover off in the woods. Mrs. Bolton interferes at times, and it’s hard to distinguish what exactly she means to accomplish. Sometimes she seems devoted to Clifford and wants to bring what Connie is doing out in the open to shame her, such as by locking her out of the house when she’s late coming back from one of her romantic encounters. Other times, she seems to be encouraging Connie to break free from her societal constraints and do what makes her happy.

There are issues of how society is about to change rearing up as Clifford must deal with issues managing the manor. When the miners he employs go on strike, he intends to break it himself. Both the mine superintendent and Connie beg him not to, but he takes them on. These side stories add to the overall concept as the society bounded so strictly by class in on the brink of challenges and changes in more ways than one.

I liked Lady Chatterly quite a bit. It’s a very romantic film in many ways. Connie does love her husband quite a bit at the opening and is devoted to him. It keeps the story from simply being that of an adulterous wife having an affair for the sheer enjoyment and physical pleasure of it. There is much time spent showing how devoted Connie is to her husband and the feeling is that if he were a whole man, she likely wouldn’t have ended up in the arms of someone else. His condition is what enables her to look beyond the socially accepted norms that she grew up accepting as well.

Richardson is fantastic. I haven’t seen anything that she’s really impressed me as an actress up until now. At their first romantic encounter, she seems to vacillate between a sense of desire, enjoyment and “what am I doing?” this works well and Richardson conveys it all. She shares an amazing chemistry with Bean who is abrasive in some ways but she sees beyond that to the caring man underneath. He is excellent in so many ways and is someone it’s easy to believe would have been so much more had he been born to a different station in life.

There are numerous sex scenes, full frontal nudity on Richardson and although slightly obscured, on Bean as well. This is not something to watch with the whole family, as should be evident just knowing a little of the background of the book upon which this is based. But yes, there is eye-candy here for all. The soundtrack is good, if a bit like the emotional tugging that went on for years on soap operas.

The dream sequences are excellently crafted and really give the feeling of what Connie is experiencing as her feelings conflict over what she perceives as her duty as a wife and what she longs for in her heart, soul, and body. These add a lot to the film itself, which is filmed in the gorgeous English countryside. Watching Connie and Mellors romp in the woods gives it the feeling of being their own land of make-believe. This is especially true for Connie, who it seems like is escaping all that constrains her in the stark house not far away.

Although it doesn’t emphasize the difference in class, it’s there, although all viewers might not quite conceive what that difference meant in this time period. Especially for those of us in the States where society is less defined, it’s hard to imagine the impact straying outside of one’s class had in England of the 1920’s. The story doesn’t really convey this danger they faced except for a few scenes when Mellors is back working the coal mines. Still, the message isn’t completely clear and that’s the one drawback to what’s happening.

Still, it’s beautifully filmed and well-acted. Some of the dialogue is a bit stilted and somewhat like a soap opera, but the actors manage to make it believable. The DVD contains a number of extras including an interview with Ken Russell who wrote the screenplay and directed Lady Chatterly. The picture seems to have been left intact from its original film print rather than given any restoration to make it sharper. The softer image, though, works for the romantic aspect of the tale and the feeling that all that we’re seeing is from a time that has passed.

Running time is over three hours, but I was entertained throughout and never felt like it really dragged. Overall this seems like it was a good adaptation of the stories, depending on how faithful it was to the book(s) upon which it was based.


• DH Lawrence
• Cast and Crew Filmographies
• Interview with Writer/Director Ken Russell
• Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery
• Broadcast Trailer

5 replies »

  1. I was about thirteen or fourteen when Lady Chatterly’s lover came into my consciousness. iwas at a convent boarding school, which really meant we were interested in EVERYthing. I think i had already found the Second Sex (Simone de Beauvoir) which I had devoured at home, and then \found this very boring book by DH really is not a good book, certainly not when compared with the rest of his works, but it did have one thing in its favour, certainly as far as we convent girls were concerned. it was full of rude words. we made it our mission to find them all. I remember telephonong my friend Jackie as soon as I found the book and giggling endlessly while telling her the pages you could find the dirty words on. oh what fun we had.
    Then many years later I actually read the book. a severe disappointment. when my husband came to England from purest communist Poland in 1978nhe wanted to see the film. im not sure it was this version, but he too was somewhat disappointed.
    But read the book Patty. it amy have changed infocus with the passage of time!

    • I believe we had a few books like that in my day, but I can’t remember them now. My guess would be Judith Krantz because I was really into her books as a teen and then later when I went back they didn’t seem all that great.

      This was from 1993, so I doubt it is the one you saw. It’s pretty good, giving the characters a lot more depth in the situation.