In 1917, with the First World War raging, Constance and Clifford, young British aristocrats, marry after a few dates. Unfortunately, when the groom returns from the front his body is permanently paralyzed from the waist down. The couple takes up residence all the same in the family mansion, and now known as Sir Clifford and Lady Chatterley they forge a relationship based on intellectual communion. As they both dream of having a child, Clifford proposes to Constance that she produce an offspring with another man; the baby would then be recognized as the Chatterleys’ legitimate heir.
However, over time and the care that Constance must provide to her husband on a daily basis, she sinks into a state of boredom, exhaustion, and even depression. Sir Clifford decides to hire a nurse, Mrs. Bolton, and Lady Chatterley thus regains her freedom, which she devotes above all to long walks in the woods. There she meets the gamekeeper employed by her husband, Oliver Mellors. Carnal attraction between them is immediate, and they waste little time becoming lovers.
Despite the distrust they feel at first towards each other – belonging as they do to social classes so distinct that normally they interact hardly at all – Constance experiences a physical fulfilment that leaves her with the impression of being reborn, while Oliver’s soul finally emerges from a deep hibernation. Soon, the few moments of pleasure stolen from their respective day-to-day lives are not enough. Added to this, Lady Chatterley is pregnant, but no longer has any desire to raise her child with Sir Clifford: she has grown so distanced that he is virtually a stranger to her. She therefore asks for a divorce, and her lover, long separated from a wife he detests, does likewise. Constance and Oliver resolve to live apart for the time being, both waiting to be divorced and free to marry each other – no matter what public opinion might have to say.