As her relationship with Le Nôtre begins to transcend the professional, Sabine becomes plagued by a tragedy from her past that has continued to rob her of a personal life ever since, something made evermore complicated by Le Nôtre's bitter partner (Helen McCrory). Displaying a poised understanding of and appreciation for the material and its various accoutrements, A Little Chaos is a frivolous but stable sophomore feature from Rickman, who manages to effortlessly tease out the mannered - and at times humorously modern - cadences of Deegan's pitch perfect dialogue. Though he doesn't particularly bring anything new to the table, the consistency of tone he exhibits is vital to the leisurely plot and its various twists and turns, allowing events to gestate naturally.
Dragging A Little Chaos down, however, is the rather slimly drawn characterisation, most notably Schoenaerts' Le Nôtre, who rarely moves beyond blankly brooding, rendering his progressive romance with Winslet a rather damp and laboured affair. She, as per usual, is on dependably steadfast form as a woman the film clearly celebrates, who rolls up her sleeves and mucks in regardless of both gender expectations and the demons that haunt her, which are clumsily explored in flashbacks. With a generous offering of pomp elsewhere, Rickman does manage to avoid the usual overstatements most actor-directors weigh their films down with, sculpting a project that's stately and modest, but precious little besides.
This review of A Little Chaos was originally published as part of our 2014 BFI London Film Festival coverage.
Edward Frost | @Frost_Ed