Ahh, Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Once considered so smutty it was banned for years in some countries, now it seems quite tame, really. It was never one of my favourite books—I found Sir Clifford to be rather flat, and Mellors seemed like sort of a dick—but let’s see if this adaptation makes me like it a bit more, shall we?
We open deep underground, in a coal mine. Men begin shouting and running, which is never a good thing, and there’s an explosion. Up top, our titular lover, Mellors (best known to many of us as Robb Stark), is handling a horse. He hears the explosion, sees the men running out of the mine, and rushes to help. Men are pulled out of the mine; one is dead. Mellors reports to the be-suited men in charge that some of these men are in a bad way. One of them tells him to back off, they’ll handle this.
The dead boy, Ted, is pulled through the town in a little cart, brought before his weeping young wife. She wonders what she’s going to do now, as she covers his sooty face.
And right from there, we go to a grand party at Wragby Hall. Ahh, mood whiplash. Lucrezia Borgia is there (she’s Connie, the titular Lady Chatterley), so you know it’s going to be a good party. She makes an impression on the host, Clifford, and before you know it, they’re getting married. They have a big, white wedding, followed by a lovely wedding night, and then Clifford ships out to serve in World War I. He’s wounded in an attack, and while he’s lying there, Mellors happens upon him and kind of stands there looking down at him before leading the advance himself.
Clifford is sent home and finds his wife and the whole household staff lined up outside the house, waiting for him. Constance seems a bit shocked when a ramp and a wheelchair are brought out for Clifford, but she keeps her brave smile firmly in place and welcomes him home.
Once they’re alone, she tells him they’ll start talking to some doctors. Clifford informs her that there’s nothing to be done, but she’s not giving up so easily. He asks to be alone for a bit so he can rest and she kisses his hand and goes. Out in the hall, though, she cries and nearly hyperventilates. The housekeeper tries to reassure her that Clifford just needs time. She wipes her tears away, but then hears the crackle of a cocking pistol in the bedroom and bursts back in just in time to keep Clifford from shooting himself. She promises her crying, despairing husband that he will always have her. Well, at least until a hot gamekeeper shows up, anyway. He thinks she’s only staying out of pity, but she swears that’s not true.
On Armistice Day, Mellors writes home to someone named Bertha, telling her how happy he is to know he’ll live to see her again. The guns cease firing at 11 on the dot and he weeps.
He goes home, stopping outside Bertha’s place to look up at the window. She comes over and looks out, her whole top unbuttoned so he can see her breasts and heavy, pregnant belly. A man joins her and brings her away from the window, and Mellors walks away, coughing.
He makes his way to Wragby and applies for a job as gamekeeper. Once Clifford realizes Mellors was in his regiment in France (Clifford doesn’t remember him at all, which clearly takes Mellors aback), Mellors is hired.
The next morning, Clifford watches Mellors walk across the estate and tells Constance the guy was in his regiment, not that he remembers him.
Clifford gets a motorized scooter-type thing, so now he can get around somewhat independently. He’s delighted. He and Constance head out into the woods so they can welcome Mellors. Constance is introduced, then Clifford spots a rabbit nearby and asks for a gun so he can shoot it. He misses. Clifford and Constance start heading back. Clifford spots another rabbit and calls for the gun, but Mellors just shoots the thing himself. Symbolism!!!!!!!!! Clifford tries not to look too put out as he tells Mellors to keep up the good work.[cryout-pullquote align=”right” textalign=”left” width=”33%”]Clifford tries to shoot a rabbit but misses. He sees another and calls for Mellors to hand him the gun, but Mellors just shoots the thing himself. Symbolism!!!!!![/cryout-pullquote]
One morning, Constance hurts her back while helping Clifford out of bed, so a nurse is brought in to help out. It’s Ted’s widow. She gets to bathe Clifford and all, the lucky girl. Apparently this hire was not cleared with Connie, who seems rather upset when she learns about it. She tells Clifford she doesn’t like this woman’s, Mrs Bolton’s, intimacy but Clifford sniffs that the woman’s a servant, it’s not like she’s a person or anything (he actually says that, because he’s a bit of a cartoon). Connie asks him if he likes having this woman tend to him and he admits he feels less ashamed having her tend to his needs rather than his wife, because he thinks he should be a figure of potency to Connie. He excuses himself to go visit the colliery, leaving her to her own devices for the day.
While Connie’s going about her business, the housekeeper tells her that Mellors has been asking about a key to his cottage. Connie agrees to take it down to him, since she wanted a walk anyway.
She goes into the woods and knocks on the cottage door, getting a sharpish response until he realizes who’s at the door. He hastily apologises, but she seems bemused and heads inside. She gets a bit of attitude and gets snappy in return, so he backpedals and thanks her for the key. She leaves in a snit.
Clifford goes to the mine and takes a tour, even climbing up to the top of the tower himself, which is pretty impressive.
Connie receives a note from Mellors, apologizing for his earlier behavior.
She returns to the woods, where she finds him doing a bit of shirtless woodworking, of course. She watches him for a little while, then approaches. He yanks on a shirt while Connie modestly looks away. He explains that he’s building coops for pheasants. Who is going to go out and hunt these pheasants? She mentions the letter and he says he was basically trying not to get fired. Bemused, she gathers he has a low opinion of her, to think she’d have him dismissed for such a trifling matter. He shrugs that plenty of people have lost jobs for less. She suggests coming by to paint sometimes, since it’s such a nice spot, and he offers to move all his projects out, figuring she wouldn’t want him around while she’s working. Oh, but she does, Mellors. She goes to leave, again in a snit, but it begins to rain, so they take shelter in the cottage.
Inside, she hangs up her damp jacket and goes to dry out by the fire. Mellors’s face says, ‘I’m so getting fired for this’ and he swiftly retreats to the other side of the cottage. She asks what his deal is and he tells her that, if anyone knew they were in the cottage alone like this, he’d be in huge trouble. She realizes the tight spot she’s put him in, grabs her coat and hat, and departs.
As she’s getting into bed with Clifford, Connie tries to get a little something started, but he reminds her that he’s not capable of that sort of thing anymore. She reminds him that there are things he can do for her, but he’s just not that kind of guy. Rich and British, you know. He tells her he loves her and bids her good night. The two of them stew in sexual frustration.
While out for a walk, Clifford admits that he’s sad they can’t have a son, but he’s looking into options that could help with that.
Those options, horribly, seem to involve him hooking his junk up to electrical current. Mrs B sits beside him, looking disturbed as he wails in pain. Belowstairs, Connie winces as she hears him scream. It goes on and on, presumably for several hours. Connie takes a break by going out into the garden. The housekeeper brings her a hot drink. Connie thanks her and stands there, looking at the distant light of the gamekeeper’s cottage. She finally runs back inside, goes upstairs, orders the treatment stopped and the doctor gone, and bathes the sweat off Clifford’s face. In agony, he tells her he tried and begins to sob. It’s actually really heartbreaking.
Connie goes for another walk, taking along a book of Keats’s poetry. She hears something and finds Mellors building a fence to keep the pheasants penned in. She asks after the chicks and goes to see them. He pulls one out of the cage for her to hold, and as she cradles it, he jokes that it’s taken her for its mother. She bursts into tears and begins sobbing and Mellors gets all awkward, but then takes the chick and hesitantly comforts her. Once in his arms, it’s all over, and things progress to making out and then sex in front of the cottage fire pretty damn fast. As you can imagine, it’s quite sexy.
Afterwards, he walks her to the edge of the forest, accompanied by his broody attitude. Before they part, he admits that he thought he’d done with this sort of thing, but apparently not. She smiles and heads back to the big house. He returns to his chicks and stalks the woods, thinking of Connie.
While Connie’s out in the gardens one day, painting, Mrs B stumbles upon her and Connie stops for a chat. Connie asks about Mrs B’s husband and hears he died six years ago, but Mrs B kept expecting him back every night, because she could seem to feel him there with her. Connie is clearly affected by this, feeling both for this woman’s loss and her own.
That night, there’s a thunderstorm which rouses Connie and Mellors (who seems to be a bit drunk). Connie races across the lawn towards the woods in the middle of the night, in the rain, spotted by Mrs B. Mellors greets Connie with relief, telling her he thought she was never coming back to him, and that he was alone again. She promises he’s not, and he excitedly begins to go down on her right there in front of the cottage.
The next day, Connie and Clifford are having a quiet dinner. Once they’re alone, Connie brings up this notion of having a child. Clifford takes the blame for awakening this hope in her and says that they’re just going to have to get used to a sexless marriage. He then tries to distract her by suggesting they have some guests over. She admits she would like to have her sister to visit.
Connie’s sister arrives, and they’re throwing a party. While the girls get ready, the sister, Hilda, guesses that Connie’s so perky because she has a lover. Connie asks her sister to promise not to tell anyone and then admits that her lover is the gamekeeper. Hilda’s so shocked and horrified that Connie has no choice, really, but to pretend it was all a joke. Yeah, gonna have to keep that one a secret for a while longer, Connie.
Downstairs, one of the guests announced is Duncan, an old friend and admirer of Connie’s. Clifford is boring everyone with talk of coal while Duncan’s being all handsome and dashing and charming. Clifford glances at him, then retires to bed early. Duncan takes his place and asks Connie to dance. They waltz and talk about their lost chance. Well, he does. She just tries to laugh it all off.
The following morning, Clifford hesitantly suggests to his wife that she have sex with Duncan so she can get pregnant. She’s not at all happy about that suggestion and yells at him for inviting Duncan purely to pimp him out. Yeah, Clifford, this is really something you should have cleared with Connie first. She is, after all, the one who has to jump into bed with this person. She yells that he appalls her and Clifford grabs her and tells her that he’s the one looking the other way while someone else messes around with his wife, all so they can have the kid that’s so important to them both. It’s utterly humiliating. Constance stomps out…
…and goes to Mellors for a good lay. Afterwards, they get playful and he tells her what a nice ass she has and they chat about his dick. He starts to wonder if people are going to wonder what’s up, her coming and going day and night. She promises nobody knows and he smirks that the lady of the manor’s movements are always noted.
One night, while he’s at the local fair, he passes by a young woman, and at second glance realizes it’s Connie in disguise as a village girl. They play some games and he gives her a toffee apple and some jerk bumps into her. He’s amused to see her getting battered around a little bit by the common folk, but after laughing about it for a moment, he goes over and smashes the jerk’s toes with the ‘ring the bell’ strongman hammer. He and Connie run off, laughing, and she gets to eat her very first toffee apple. That is not a euphemism, in case you were wondering.
Connie’s pregnant. She checks out her slightly swollen belly in the mirror, then gets dressed and goes to tell Clifford her good news. He receives it as happily as one can, all things considered. Stiff smiles all around. He asks about the man in the equation and she asks to be allowed to handle the situation.
He and Connie head out to inspect the pheasants. Clifford races ahead in his scooter, and once he’s out of sight Mellors appears and begins kissing Connie, which is enormously ballsy on both their parts. Clifford honks his horn and the pair springs apart and Connie goes to catch up with him. A little further down the path, he gets caught in some mud and bellows for Mellors. Mellors materializes and Clifford asks him to give the scooter a push. Mellors puts his back into it, but that nasty cough starts back up. Connie’s standing there, looking tense, and Clifford’s getting frustrated. She offers to help push too, which prompts Clifford to spill the beans about her being pregnant. Mellors’s face is a study in, ‘say what, now?’ with a touch of ‘this is not how I wanted to find out this particular news!’ He then starts to look pissed and begins rage-pushing Clifford’s scooter, despite Connie begging both men to put an end to this. Mellors, with some effort, manages to push Clifford free of the mud. Clifford throws a thanks over his shoulder as he motors away. Mellors walks away, coughing horribly. Constance catches up with her husband and lays into him for allowing such a spectacle. He says he didn’t want anyone else witnessing his helplessness. She tells him to go home and send for a doctor, then hurries back towards Mellors’s cottage. Clifford watches her go with an, ‘oh, I see,’ look.
Connie finds Mellors lying on his pallet in the cottage and says she didn’t mention the baby because she was afraid it would end the affair and she just didn’t now what to do. He accuses her of using him to get a kid and she says she feels for him what she’s never felt. He then goes on a bit of a rant about rich people, who send people like him down into the pits at 12 so their health can be ruined. He yells at her to go back to her husband and put her baby baronet in Wragby. She insists she wants Mellors but he wails that it can’t be. She cries, knowing it’s true. He cries too.[cryout-pullquote align=”right” textalign=”left” width=”33%”]She insists she wants Mellors but he wails that it can’t be. She cries, knowing it’s true[/cryout-pullquote]
She goes home and locks herself in her bedroom. Clifford pleads with her through the door, then comes in and asks if she’s ok. He delicately hints that there’s clearly been some ‘unseemliness’. She asks for a little time to gather herself. He tells her that they’ll need to make a formal announcement soon.
Mrs B goes to Mellors’s cottage and, finding him out, snoops around and finds Connie’s book of Keats poetry. Not that that proves anything. Connie could just say she took shelter from the rain there one day. Which is actually the truth.
The Chatterleys have a party to celebrate the impending new arrival. Clifford discusses names with some of the guests and receives a note from Mrs B, asking to speak with him urgently. He excuses himself and meets with her so she can show him the book and tell him he found it at Mellors’s. Damn, lady. Are you just doing this to upset Clifford, or are you lashing out at everyone around you just because? Clifford screams at her for her innuendos and she flies off the handle, yelling that his damn pit killed her husband, and then the suits made it seem like it was actually Ted’s fault, so the only compensation they had to pay out was £300. And then to compound this douchebaggery, they wouldn’t give her the money in a lump sum, because she, being a woman, naturally couldn’t be trusted to use it wisely in any way, so instead she just got a few shillings meted out to her every week. Woah. Ok, I don’t blame her for wanting to burn all this shit to the ground.
Later, Connie finds Clifford out in the gardens. He tells her that a disaster has now befallen them, and it’s basically her fault. He yells for her to get away from him. Jesus, Clifford, you basically asked for this.
Mrs B, naturally, is so fired. Before she leaves, Connie asks for a word. Like Mellors, Mrs B accuses Connie of using him as a sperm doner. Connie bursts into tears and Mrs B suddenly realizes Connie actually cares for Mellors. Connie tells the woman that she loves the man. Mrs B looks super guilty and whimpers that she’s sorry and Connie needs to try and catch up with him, before he vanishes, which he will do, soon, because word of this will have traveled.
Connie races to the cottage but finds it empty. Just as she’s about to despair, Mellors’s dog appears, followed by the man himself. She throws herself into his arms. He tells her he needs to lay low for a while. She offers to go with him, so they can be a family. He admits he’s terrified of bringing a child into this awful world (and he doesn’t even know the half of it yet) and she accuses him of having given up on them.
She runs off and he thinks about it for a minute, then catches her up. He says he wants to be with her, every part of him, and he loves her. She steps forward and kisses him.
They go to the colliery, so Connie can ask her husband for a divorce. He’s horrified by the idea of the order of life being smashed and orders Mellors brought to him. Connie goes to fetch him, and the two men start snapping at each other. Clifford likens Mellors to an ape, Mellors calls him a ladylike snipe and says that Clifford’s sort sends thousands to their deaths in the war. Clifford (correctly) points out that members of the upper class suffered terribly in the war and actually lost proportionally more of their young men than any other social class, and now who’s going to replace them? Men like Mellors? Well, yeah, I guess so. Mellors says he remembers seeing Clifford wounded, and he had the same look then as he does now: he longed for death. Clifford tells him to get lost and refuses to divorce his wife. Mellors leaps at him, but Constance pulls him off. She reminds Clifford that he was once willing to kill himself to free her of the burden of him and she thinks there must be some of the man she once loved left. Enough, hopefully, to perform one last act of sacrifice. She and Mellors leave, and Clifford thinks, then calls after them that she can have her divorce and Mellors can have her. Clifford, meanwhile, will inherit the earth! He does not finish that thought with an evil laugh. They climb into the car and drive away together.
A nice romantic ending, of course, but I always wondered what life would look like if we caught up with these two a year or two down the road. After all, she’s not cut out for life as the wife of a poor man. She’s not been raised to be in any way useful. How is he going to find work without any reference, with a massive scandal dogging him? It just feels like this relationship would start to break down quickly under that stress, plus the added pressure of a baby.
Sorry to be a downer. Let’s talk about sex instead. See, there was some buzz about this before it aired because some people out there saw early screenings, clutched their pearls, and likened it to porn. To which I say…what the hell kind of extremely tame porn are these people familiar with? This wasn’t porn-y at all. It wasn’t explicit. I mean, you knew these people were having sex, but you didn’t even see boob. It was definitely less explicit than Game of Thrones, or Ripper Street, or most other shows that feature sex, and I don’t hear people calling them porn. What’s different about this? Was it the scene of Mellors pleasuring Lady Chatterley that tipped it over? Is it ok for men to have enthusiastic sex on TV without anyone freaking out, but a woman getting oral is unacceptable? Or was it the fact that these were rather arty love scenes, with the flickering firelight and whatever? So, sex is ok, but lovemaking is porn. That’s sad, folks.
Then again, maybe the whole thing was just manufactured to get this some extra attention. No publicity is bad, right? And it seems to have done the trick, because viewing figures for this were pretty high. And I think this was an ok adaptation. It’s been some time since I read the book, so my recollection is fuzzy, but they definitely nailed the class divisions that run the book, and I appreciated them giving Clifford a bit more depth. I actually felt really sorry for the man here. Special applause to our two leads, who did a great job as the brooding, damaged gamekeeper and the bewildered, lost, but happy young woman who starts to heal him. Nicely done, you two. Way to remind me of why I really like you both as actors. Excellent chemistry, too. Motives could have been explored a little better, but with only 90 minutes, things were inevitably going to get cut.
What did you all think, was this a good adaptation, or one consigned to book-into-film hell?