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A Little Chaos

A Little Chaos

Released 17 April 2015
Director Alan Rickman

Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Alan Rickman, Stanley Tucci, Jennifer Ehle, Helen McCrory

Jeremy Brock, Alison Deegan, Alan Rickman

Andrea Calderwood, Gail Egan, Bertrand Faivre
Origin United Kingdom
Running Time 116 minutes
Genre Comedy, drama, romance
Rating 15A

Horticultural high society.

The main point of criticism I have regarding A Little Chaos is one which I have never levelled at a film before (and probably never will again) - it needs more gardening. The film takes place during the reign of Louis XIV of France (Alan Rickman, also directing) as the palace and gardens of Versailles are being built and beautified. The official landscape gardener to the Court, Andre Le Notre (Matthias Schoenaerts) is given the task of finding a suitable gardener to work on a particular section of Versailles. He chooses the untrained but passionate Sabine De Barra (Kate Winslet) and gradually becomes enchanted by her free spirited ways, so in contrast with the stuffy grandeur of life in Court.

It is this clash between Sabine’s down to earth manner and the artificiality and downright absurdity of life within the King’s inner circles that stops the film from drifting completely into obscurity. Winslet gives a performance that is brimming with warmth and strength, making Sabine a very likable, salt of the earth sort of woman. To be honest, I would have happily watched her getting her hands dirty with an impressive feat of horticultural engineering for the entire running time. Unfortunately though, this is a “romantic drama” and the focus of the story is actually the relationship that builds between Sabine and Le Notre. This, I could have done without. I’m not entirely sure what’s happening to Matthias Schoenaerts but after this and the tedious Suite Francaise, I think it’s imperative that he get out of period costume ASAP. As Le Notre, he has very little to do but enigmatically stare at Winslet from behind some hardy perennials. As such, the romantic relationship never really convinces - other than a good head of hair I can’t quite understand what Sabine saw in him.

A Little Chaos would undoubtedly have been better had it veered away from its more soapy tendencies but it does have a considerable level of charm nonetheless. Winslet’s humane performance makes it all worthwhile but elsewhere Stanley Tucci is a fun watch, camping it up from beneath a sizable wig, while Rickman is enjoyably stoic as the King. His work behind the camera meanwhile is competent, producing a film that never speeds up beyond a gentle canter but is enjoyable enough company while it lasts.

- Linda O’Brien