|'a simple narrative, the joys of which can be found in performance and character moments'|
The tragic passing of Alan Rickman in early 2016 hardly needs more sadness associated with it, but the promise of A Little Chaos provides exactly that. Rickman's only previous writing/directing effort prior to this was 1997's The Winter Guest and the wrangling of a fine, if quiet, Drama here, from a topic as apparently mundane as competitive gardening, suggests that there was a lot of talent here to look forward to.
In fact, the feeling left by A Little Chaos is possibly that Rickman could have had a fine future in TV, had he wanted it. When you think of really great, popular Period Dramas of recent years, the likes of Downton Abbey and Netflix's current offering, The Crown, spring to mind. Rickman shows a skill and awareness with the material and period here which could have translated well into the high-end TV world, had he wanted it to.
Euro love interest of choice Matthias Schoenaerts here plays second fiddle to Kate Winslet's Sabine De Barra, a gardener employed indirectly by King Louis XIV (Rickman) to sculpt the landscape at Versailles.
The romantic plot is spiced only by some thin consideration of the fact that De Barra is a professional woman in a man's world, beset by doubt from all sides, including her own and, eventually, by more than that. Rickman doesn't really seem interested in this angle though and you can understand some of the logic; De Barra is a fictional avatar in a real world and through that prism it's rather difficult to make some of the points the film is interested in. A rather terrible character tick involving De Barra's child should have been culled in a much earlier draft by writers Rickman, Jeremy Brock and Alison Deegan.
What that leaves you with is a simple narrative, the joys of which can be found in performance and character moments. The about face of Thierry Duras (Steven Waddington), representing all who doubted De Barra, is a pleasant moment of drama, as too is the in-person meeting between De Barra and King Louis.
The extended scenes of high society socialising though rarely offer much that genuinely adds to the plot and, by the end, the film resorts to a moment of Drama to lift the competitive gardening, which feels overly manufactured and not entirely inkeeping with the tone Rickman had established.