The year is 1682 and Sabine De Barra (Kate Winslet) is a strong-willed and independent widow who has nothing to do with the glittery goings-on of the gilded French gentry. She is a gifted garden designer who is chosen by Andre Le Notre (Matthias Schoenaerts), the King's chief landscape artist, to design the Rockwork Grove, a special outdoor area at the Palace of Versailles that is to have a ballroom and a fountain. King Louis XIV (Alan Rickman) hopes that this area and others will reflect "a window to perfection."
When Sabine arrives to begin her project, she is the talk of the ladies of the court who are not used to such a free and honest woman. She immediately earns the ire of Andre's domineering and faithless wife (Helen McCrory) who does what she can to keep control of her husband and to make this newcomer look bad.
The intimate relationship between Sabine and Andre is a slow bloom given their different perspectives on design and architecture: he is a believer in order and she finds beauty and mystery in chaos. Another roadblock they face is the grief Sabine still feels over the death of her beloved young daughter in a carriage accident.
We described The Winter Guest, Alan Rickman's debut as a director, as "a warm and winning film about the blessings of human connections." This enchanting costume drama is even more appealing with its visual beauty, lovely music, and pleasing performances. Writers Alison Deegan, Alan Rickman, and Jeremy Block create a magical interlude when Sabine stumbles upon the King in a garden and, because he has taken off his wig and coat, mistakes him for the gardener. They savor the peace and the pretty flowers around them, talking with an ease that is impossible to find at court. Later in another powerful and poetic scene, Sabine, after sensing the sorrows she shares with the women at Fontainebleau, lectures the King on the impermanence of flowers and of human beings.
A Little Chaos shines with its unique perspectives on beauty, flowers, grief, work, and impermanence.