Oh no, you may be thinking, not three hours in a darkened room with D H Lawrence! That’s too much for me. And you wouldn’t be alone thinking that – Lawrence could be preachy, wrong-headed and politically dubious. Yet he was an astonishing visionary and Feran’s film faithfully gives us his better side – delighting in small things and celebrating the sensual.
The story, following the second of the three Chatterley novels, is a simple one. Constance is married to Clifford, an impotent war-wounded paraplegic. Parkin is the gamekeeper on their estate. Constance and Parkin are drawn together by their love of the natural world and soon she is as interested in his pectorals as his partridges.
Lawrence was vilified as filthy-minded but he’s the most moral of writers and very clear about how right and natural it is for both the woman and the man to delight in each other and each other’s bodies. The stiff, gawky and very affectionate Constance only fully becomes herself by expressing her sensual and sexual nature. It’s all very innocent, even hippyish. They gambol naked in the long grass in the rain, plait flowers in each other’s head and body hair.
The detail isn’t always right – the French roadside shrine, the coalminers’ too-clean faces. But even the stolid Parkin lightens up and Marina Hands as Constance, doing great things with her face and eyes, makes her awakening convincing and rather beautiful.