Film Review: A Little Chaos (2015)

I finally had the chance to see this film for my birthday (my husband bought me the DVD) and I loved every single minute of it. In fact, I was sad when it ended because I loved it so much! I think it was beautifully directed by Alan Rickman and all the actors were very well-cast.ALittleChaos

The sensitive, gentle story follows Sabine De Barra – a woman who has had a traumatic experience and who survives by being employed for her whimsical garden style. She adds a little chaos to the structured, formal Baroque designs favoured by top gardener Andre Le Notre. Having previously seen Schoenaerts portray a total New York City thug in another movie recently, I was very impressed by his total transformation into the gentle Le Notre.

The chemistry between Schoenaerts and Winslet was sensitive and beautiful. I’ve grown up watching Winslet in period films (which I think she’s strongest in) such as Sense and Sensibility, Hamlet, Jude, Enigma, and of course, Titanic. Winslet’s portrayal of Sabine was raw and moving, and I do not at all agree with those who’ve said her acting was wooden in this. The woman is a brilliant actress and always has been. She portrays Sabine’s hesitance, her self-consciousness in the midst of the courtiers, and her love of gardening beautifully. The only criticism I can think of is she seemed tired, weary – but this was probably a characterisation (it makes sense given the story). The love scene was a little awkward, but still nice.

Image: BBC Films

Helen McCrory’s character was decidedly dislikeable (almost as bad as her character in Penny Dreadful!) and I have never read anything to suggest Le Notre’s wife was this way. An unexpected pleasure came from discovering Rupert Penry-Jones turn up. I’ve been a fan of his ever since Persuasion and Whitechapel, but this was just fabulous. He was in full French Baroque clothing!

Image: BBC Films

Now, what about historical accuracy? The film takes place in the 1680s, so Louis XIV is past his prime. Rickman was a believable Sun King, and I wished there were more scenes with him. Characters that really existed were Madame de Montespan (beautifully portrayed by Jennifer Ehle), Philippe, Duc d’Orleans (Stanley Tucci), Liselotte, and of course, Andre Le Notre. The main heroine, Sabine De Barra, did not exist but that didn’t bother me because it was a very entertaining story.

SoundtrackThe soundtrack was composed by Peter Gregson and both my husband and I enjoyed it so much we bought the album straight after watching the film. There are poignant piano and strings pieces which I thought were perfect for the film. As a whole, it’s not as great as some other soundtracks because I haven’t been able to find a memorable melody, but the track A Little Chaos is superb. I’ve been listening to this soundtrack while I work and it’s great in the background.

Image: BBC Films

If you like super fast-paced, action fests with lots of almost pornographic-level sex, unrealistically clean and gorgeous actors and superficial storylines, this isn’t for you. If on the other hand you’ve been raised on Merchant Ivory films, love gentle and beautifully-made films with heart, this is for you. It was certainly right for me!

SCL rating: 4.5/5 (Not a 5 because the story was a little weak).

Hear ye! 4 thoughts — so far — on “Film Review: A Little Chaos (2015)”:

  1. Jules Harper (@ItsJulesHarper)

    Oh dear, Andrea. I will have to disagree with you on this! From the very first scene where Louis is woken by his children and wife (wtf???) I disliked the movie. Loved the clothes, yes. And Stanley Tucci did a good job as Monsieur, but there were so many historically inaccurate things going on to forgive. The entire piece just struck me as a Kate Winslet vehicle to the detriment of accuracy…. even though it wouldn’t have taken much to get those tiny details right! Alan Rickman as Louis felt like he was trying way too hard. In comparison, Benoit Magimel’s portrayal in Le Roi Danse is still by far the best, with all the command and haughtiness that Louis possessed. But I do agree with you about the music – a lovely soundtrack 🙂

  2. Faith

    I have to say that I am thankful I saw the film before reading the reviews written about it. Had I read the reviews first I might not have seen the soft beauty of this film, which I really love.

    I also agree about the soundtrack. It is light, soft, lovely, captivating, and perfect for this film. There has only been one other film I’ve seen in where the soundtrack and film caused me to instantly fall in love and buy both, and that was Cloud Atlas. The music was so poignant and perfect, where the film is beyond what I expected it to be.

  3. Clever Girl Reviews

    I enjoyed this one myself! There were a few things I needed to see on film that were not, like how exactly Le Notre and his wife came to their arrangement or what Sabine’s condition was that left her seemingly loving husband free to find a mistress in what seemed a fruitful and still young marriage. The cgi ending was a little off for me too but other than that I loved it. It was hard for me to watch Rickman as I saw the film a few weeks after his death and he’s a favorite of mine.


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