Lady Chatterley’s Lover is, mistakenly, in the minds of many entirely about sex. Given the media attention of the 1959 obscenity trial it would be redundant for me to mention the public furore that surrounded the novel. I will however note that contrary to popular belief, D.H. Lawrence’s novel was not merely controversial for its frank and sensual portrayal of sex, but rather it was the nature of the love affair that was deemed so objectionable: featuring a loving, sexual relationship between an upper class women and a working class man who are equally intellectually. This, coupled with the sexuality being deciding of a feminine nature is truly both the controversial issue as well and the novel’s real central conceit.
Previous adaptations, such as the 1993 version starring Joely Richardson and Sean Bean, have erroneously cast the sexual act to the forefront resulting in some frankly ridiculous scenes involving the besotted couple scampering around nude as a means of portraying the natural state of their relationship. It was refreshing then to see an adaptation which not only refused to titillate, but maintained a sharp focus on the real issues at the heart of Lawrence’s text.
The chemistry, which later develops into true affection, between both Lady Chatterley (Holliday Grainger) and her groundsman Mellors (Richard Madden) is entirely palpable and more importantly, a relationship which we can truly invest in.
Jed Mercurio’s screenplay invests Grainger’s Chatterley with a wit intelligence rarely seen in prior adaptations: she is perceptive, almost rebellious in her poise. Madden too, is rather wonderful, imbuing Mellor’s with a keen sensitivity. Interestingly too, Mercurio’s adds complexity to the adultery issue through his depiction of Lord Chatterley as a man who is acutely aware of his injury enforced impotence, who is rather more kind and emotionally aware than the brattish, childish creations prior.
Many have critiqued the lack of sex scenes, but those critics are surely entirely missing the point of Lawrence’s work: Lady Chatterley is a narrative of far more complexity than mere adultery.