Lady Chatterley

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Lady Chatterley Movie Poster Image
Lusty D.H. Lawrence adaptation for adults only.
  • NR
  • 2007
  • 168 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Lady Constance and Parkin indulge in infidelity; later, she hints to her husband that she may try to get pregnant by another man. He doesn't protest, but merely airs his "conditions" (the man must be of "decent" stock, etc.). Constance lies about her whereabouts, and Lord Clifford speaks dismissively of the men who work for him in his family's mines.

Violence

Very little. There's a moment when one character tells her confidante about another character's brawl, but no actual fighting is seen on screen. Also, Sir Clifford and his pals discuss the gruesome business and casualties of war in an early scene.

Sex

A handful of scenes depict simulated intercourse, though in many of them the characters are still partially clothed. Only a few scenes show both characters fully naked from head to toe engaged in sex. Genitals -- male and female -- are shown in one scene; later, the lovers lie atop each other naked. In another scene, Constance and Parkin put flowers in each other's pubic region and run naked in the rain. Constance stands in front of a mirror naked from the waist up, then takes off the rest of her clothes.

Language

Mild and flowery. Sexual conquest is prefaced by a fairly innocuous "Do you want to be with me?"

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some smoking (including close-ups of cigarettes being lit or offered in their cases). More tea-drinking than alcohol -- sex is the drug of choice here -- though wine is served at parties.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this subtitled French drama -- which is about infidelity, how lust morphs into love, and why sex can be transformative -- isn't for kids. Though it's mostly sophisticated when it comes to tackling the subject of sex -- a tough feat considering there's so much of it in the movie -- some scenes are quite graphic (one shows a woman atop a man, both naked; another shows a man's genitals). And the sounds the lovers make during sex are even more explicit. And then there's the fact that the movie devolves into class struggles in a way that may be too complicated for younger viewers, anyway.

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What's the story?

With her husband, Lord Clifford Chatterley (Hippolyte Girardot), crippled from a war injury, Lady Constance (Marina Hands) spends her time caring for him and running their enormous household. The repetitive days are sapping her life away until she takes a walk in the woods to talk to the gamekeeper, Oliver Parkin (Jean-Louis Coulloc'h). Soon, Constance and Parkin begin spending time together outside his work cabin -- she, the lady of the estate, reconnecting with the outdoors, and he, the employee, keeping out of her way. But it's only a matter of time before they consummate their growing attraction in a scene so untamed it jolts her to life.

Is it any good?

It would be much too easy to classify writer-director Pascale Ferran's LADY CHATTERLEY as pure titillation. After all, it's based on D.H. Lawrence's scandalous novel (the version titled John Thomas and Lady Jane, anyway), and yes, there's plenty of sex and nudity. But to do so would be a disservice both to Lawrence and to the able Ferran; the film didn't win scores of Cesars (France's version of the Oscars) for nothing. In less skillful and respectful hands, Lady Chatterley (in French with English subtitles) could have easily devolved into a soft-porn vehicle masquerading as intelligent cinema.

The movie isn't without shortcomings, however: The textual transitions -- basically explanation in plain white letters printed against a black background -- are clunky (though they do move the action quite a bit). And while dreamy indolence seems apt for a re-telling of the Lawrence classic, Ferran overdoes it. With too many scenes feeling overly portentous (black clouds roiling overhead, too-verdant fields glistening under the sun, dew dripping from flowers) it becomes not just languorous but downright slow.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what differentiates lust from love. How do movies distinguish between the two, if they do at all? Do they sometimes seem to be one and the same? In this movie, does Lady Constance still love her husband? If so, why does she take a lover? Are her actions at all justified or explained?

Movie details

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