It’s 17th Century France and King Louis XIV (Alan Rickman) is on the throne. He wants a revamp of the Versailles gardens and hires architect Andre Le Notre (Matthias Schoenaerts) to build it. However, he needs help from a landscape artist and so brings in widower Sabine De Barra (Kate Winslet).
They have a few initial problems as he likes classical geometry and straight lines, while she is more forward-thinking and asymmetrical in her design (metaphor alert). Despite this, the two begin to fall for one another. This should be okay as Andre has an open marriage, however his wife (Helen McRory) isn’t keen on the feelings he develops for Sabine and plans to destroy what they are creating together.
Directed and co-written by Alan Rickman, A Little Chaos suffers from the strengths and weaknesses of quite a few other movies helmed by actors. It looks beautiful and the likes of Winslet and Schoenaerts are given great space and consideration to show off their skills (although Rickman himself seems a little distracted trying to act and direct at the same time). However, as a piece of storytelling it’s rather hit and miss, partly because it has so much respect for what the actors are doing that it defers to them rather than pulling the whole thing into something cohesive.
Its penchant for rather stodgy melodrama and slightly cheap storytelling devises undermine the good work going on elsewhere. A Little Chaos could have been far worse as it does have a fair amount of charm, a great cast and it’s never dreadful, but sadly it’s also duller than it should be considering the talent of all involved. It results in a movie that by the end will elicit polite applause but nobody is going to want to give it a standing ovation.
Overall Verdict: A Little Chaos looks beautiful and it’s obviously a labour of love for Alan Rickman, but unfortunately despite his best efforts and a great cast, the film is a little stodgy and never fully comes to life.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac