The story of an adulterous affair between Lady Constance Chatterley, a sexually unfulfilled upper-class married woman, and the game keeper who works for the estate owned by her wheelchair-bound husband.
This languorous drama is set amidst the dappled forests, pristine streams and floral profusion of Wragby, an English estate that is as polished on the surface as it is dull underneath. Constance Chatterley (Marina Hands) is a young aristocrat trapped in a lifeless marriage with Clifford (Hippolyte Girardot), a wheelchair-bound war veteran who maintains a wry complacency about his condition. On doctor’s orders, Constance (who is stricken by 'listlessness") takes to the forest to restore her vitality. She first encounters Parkin (Jean-Louis Coullo'ch), the gamekeeper, when she is sent on an errand to his cottage. To her shock and barely concealed fascination, she stumbles across him bathing, which sets the scene for more voyeuristic revelations to come.
D.H. Lawrence’s book has long held a tawdry reputation for its abundance of nudity and adult themes, yet director Pascale Ferran has managed to pare back this legacy to reveal something profoundly innocent, romantic and at times outright funny, as the audience witnesses Constance and Parkin navigating the choppy waters of a lustful, forbidden union. Marina Hands lends an appealing naivete to her fairly two-dimensional role and Coullo’ch’s Parkin, whose brute ugliness is at first off-putting, softens into a complex character who is at once aloof but also oddly charming.
The downfall of this elegantly executed film is the pace. Interminable silences, tedious forest sequences and implausibly low-fi reactions to the film’s major shocks make for a film that could have benefited from strategic editing. Amidst the tedium – which is as much a reflection on the characters’ lives as it is a sign of poor construction – there are scenes that are genuinely whimsical, touching and amusing, but the wait between them is unfortunately lengthy.
Despite strong performances, a rich story and some truly moving moments, Lady Chatterley is totally let down by its laborious length and poor pacing.