VOD film review: A Little Chaos
Ivan Radford | On 31, Aug 2015
Director: Alan Rickman
Cast: Alan Rickman, Kate Winslet
Watch A Little Chaos online in the UK: iTunes / TalkTalk TV Store / Amazon Instant Video / Google Play
Gardener’s Question Time in France. That’s essentially what Alan Rickman’s new film, A Little Chaos, boils down to. Even the title hints at the harmless non-drama on offer: there’s not a lot of chaos here; just a little.
That mostly comes in the form of Sabine de Barra (Winslet), a landscape designer who is hired to help fashion a new garden in Versailles for the flower-loving Louis XIV. Essentially a woman who has entered the royal circle on her own merits, she’s something of a rarity in the court’s bed of thorny, social-climbing weeds.
Winslet blooms in the role, not afraid to get her hands dirty, both outside in the grounds and inside the bedroom of André Le Nôtre (Matthias Schoenaerts), her boss and Louis’ principal gardener. That, of course, sets off the spiky Madame Le Nôtre (a magnificently glowering Helen McCrory), who plots to sabotage Sabine’s efforts.
There’s some enjoyment in the period costume steaminess and one scene where Sabine and the other women get the chance to talk about death and children in private has huge potential, but the focus is mostly on the (beautifully shot) scenery rather than the people. One on-the-nose discussion about roses wilting as they age attempts to combine the two, but mostly digs up cheese from the fertile soil. Alan Rickman, meanwhile, rolls the wry dialogue around his mouth with the authority you’d expect from a director, star and French king. He deserves credit for having the passion to tell such a small story in a sea of loud blockbusters, but he often ends up the one having the most fun.
Everyone delivers their lines in sombre English, including an unsubtle flashback to Sabine’s tragic past. You wonder whether it would be more entertaining if they donned comedic French accents. “All I see is mud,” declares Louis in one soaked moment that doesn’t quite work as a key climax. For all the conviction on display, the entire thing is as tense and gripping as an episode of Gardener’s Question Time. Best enjoyed on a Sunday afternoon with a cup of tea.