A Little Chaos

A Little Chaos is a 2014 British period drama film directed by Alan Rickman. The story was conceived by Alison Deegan who co-wrote the screenplay along with Rickman and Jeremy Brock. The film stars Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Alan Rickman, Stanley Tucci, Helen McCrory, Steven Waddington, Jennifer Ehle and Rupert Penry-Jones. The film was financed by the Lionsgate UK and produced by BBC Films. It was the second film directed by Rickman, after his 1997 directorial debut The Winter Guest. It was the second collaboration of Rickman and Winslet after their 1995 film Sense and Sensibility. Production took place in London in mid 2013. The film had its world premiere at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival as the closing night film on 13 September 2014.

A Little Chaos
ALC poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAlan Rickman
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story byAlison Deegan
Music byPeter Gregson[1]
CinematographyEllen Kuras
Edited byNicolas Gaster
  • Artemis Films
  • BBC Films
  • Lipsync Productions
  • Potboiler Productions
Distributed byLionsgate
Release date
  • 13 September 2014 (2014-09-13) (TIFF)
  • 17 April 2015 (2015-04-17)
Running time
117 minutes[2]
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office$10.08 million [3][4]


King Louis XIV of France assigns the design and construction of the Gardens of Versailles to landscape architect André Le Nôtre. Le Nôtre interviews several other garden designers who have submitted designs for the project, including one woman, Sabine de Barra. He sees her move a potted plant in his garden prior to her interview, and asks her if she gives deference to order in design. Sabine affirms her respect for his work but suggests that she would like to create something uniquely French rather than follow classical and renaissance styles. He shows her the door, and she leaves disheartened.

Bosquet de la Salle-de-Bal at Gardens of Versailles, laid out by André Le Nôtre between 1680 and 1683.

After all the interviews, André mulls over the candidates, oppressed by the weight of the king's expectations. A few judicious words from his assistant prompt him to reconsider Sabine's designs. Later that evening, André surprises Sabine at her home and, after examining her seemingly untamed but magical home garden, tasks her with responsibility for an outdoor ballroom at Versailles, surrounded by fountains and landscaping. André's plans had called for a constant supply of water from a distance at great expense, but Sabine devises another engineering solution: a reservoir from which water can be continuously recycled through the fountains. As work begins on her design, Sabine initially makes little progress with the workmen recommended by one of the designers rejected by André. Another competitor and an acquaintance of hers, Thierry Duras, intervenes and offers the use of his crew.

As a striking commoner, artlessly beautiful and fearlessly honest, Sabine attracts attention at court, and is befriended by the King's brother Duc Philippe d'Orleans and his wife Elizabeth Charlotte, Princess Palatine. At times, Sabine appears haunted by recurring images of wagon wheels in movement and brief glimpses of a young girl or the girl's voice. Sabine and André become increasingly attracted to each other but do not act on their feelings. André quietly endures the infidelities of his wife Françoise, who insists that her husband's success is founded on her influence at court. When Françoise senses his interest in Sabine and warns him against an affair, he quotes her own speech declaring their right to seek comfort elsewhere, and becomes resolute in his intention to pursue a relationship with Sabine.

Queen Maria Theresa dies suddenly. The king is stunned at the loss of his wife and takes refuge in one of his gardener's work areas, among his prized pear trees. Sabine finds the king there as she delivers perennials for a trade, initially mistaking him for the gardener. The king enjoys her warmth and forthrightness, and after she recognizes him she agrees to continue their conversation as equals. He invites her to travel with him and his court to the Palace of Fontainebleau.

At the Versailles garden site, Sabine is visited by Françoise, who tells her that André's interest in her is only a whim and will prove short-lived. After they both have left the site, Françoise's lover opens the sluice gates from the reservoir in the middle of a powerful storm and floods the work site, destroying much of the earthworks. Sabine nearly drowns trying to close the gate, and André helps pull her from the gushing water. The next morning, Sabine works vigorously to mend some of the damage done by the storm and flood. That same day, Louis XIV visits Sabine's work site and assesses the project skeptically but allows it to proceed.

Afterwards, André finds a glove at the worksite that he knows belongs to his wife Françoise. He realizes she is behind the sabotage of the project, confronts her with the glove, and ends their relationship.

Sabine goes to court again, where Duc de Lauzun introduces her to the king's mistress, the Marquise de Montespan, who in turn introduces her to the women of the court. At first they tease her, but when they learn that Sabine is widowed and also lost her 6-year-old daughter, they reveal their own losses and welcome her into their circle, where they often discuss topics the king forbids at court. The Marquise formally presents Sabine to the king when he arrives, and Sabine offers him a four-seasons rose — the same kind found in the garden where they first met. They converse about the nature of the rose and its life cycle, beauty, hardships, and death, and the gardener's responsibilities — all of it Sabine's veiled defense of Madame de Montespan, who has begun to lose the king's favor. Again, the king is charmed and touched by her observations.

André waits for Sabine outside her room that night, and they finally make love. In the morning, André finds himself alone in bed. Sabine is upstairs, lost in the memory of the day her daughter and husband died: he was taking their daughter with him on a day trip. Prior to leaving, he reveals to Sabine that he has a mistress. He then rounds up their daughter and gets into the carriage. As they are leaving, Sabine sees that the carriage has a faulty wheel and learns from the footman that her husband is taking their daughter to his mistress's home — not on a business trip as he had indicated. She races after the carriage, and when she tries to block the carriage in the road, it veers off track and topples down a steep hill, killing both father and daughter. André finds Sabine in the grip of this memory, evoked by her conversation with the ladies of the court and her intense night with him, and he convinces her to stop blaming herself for their deaths.

When Sabine's project is complete, the king and his court arrive for its inauguration. To the music of a hidden orchestra, everyone begins dancing as the fountains send water coursing down the tiers around the ballroom floor. After Sabine dances with the king, she and André leave the others and walk into the garden together.



The story was conceived by Allison Deegan, who co-wrote the screenplay along with Rickman and Jeremy Brock.[5] The film was financed by the Lionsgate UK and produced by BBC Films.[6]

Production began in March 2013. Producer Zygi Kamasa of Lionsgate said that "we are delighted to be working with the best of British actors and directors like Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman as we move forward in doubling our investment in British films in 2014."[7] Rickman said: "The film is not just frills at the wrists and collars. It's about people getting their hands dirty and building something in order to entertain the other world they serve. It's about how one world maintains the other, often at the cost of women."[8]


Landscape scenes were shot at Blenheim Palace.

On 17 January 2013, it was announced that Kate Winslet and Matthias Schoenaerts had been cast as the leads in the film.[9] Rickman had Winslet in mind for the lead role of Sabine de Barra and continued with her when two weeks into shooting, Winslet announced that she was pregnant.[10] In addition to directing, Rickman took the role of King Louis XIV. He explained that "the only way I could do it was because in a way, he's like a director, Louis, so you kind of keep the same expression on your face. As a director, you see everything somehow. It's like a huge all-encompassing eye that sees everything, and it's able to cherry pick; ‘Move that,’ ‘Don't do that,’ ‘Do it this way,’ ‘Change this colour.’ And I don't know where that comes from, but it does, once you're given the job, and I have a feeling Louis probably would've been a great film director."[11]


Despite being set in France, complete filming took place in England.[12] Principal photography commenced on 27 March 2013 and continued over eight weeks in Black Park, Cliveden House, Pinewood Studios, Blenheim Palace, Waddesdon Manor, Hampton Court Palace, Ham House, Ashridge and Chenies Manor.[13][14][12] Filming ended on 8 June 2013 in Richmond, London.[15]

According to Rickman, filming "wasn't easy, though; throwing Kate into freezing water at 1 a.m., the carriage crash, scenes with 80 extras, tight schedules in venues like Blenheim Palace. It's a constant tap dance between control and freedom and of course the budget guides everything."[8]


A Little Chaos : Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
Released16 April 2015[16]
RecordedVarious times
LabelMilan Records[16]
ProducerPeter Gregson
Peter Gregson chronology
Every Quiet Moment
A Little Chaos : Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

The soundtrack was composed by Peter Gregson. It was the first feature film for Gregson, who previously composed music for a 2014 short film Every Quiet Moment.[1] Veigar Margeirsson's 2008 composition "Rise above" was used in the trailer of the film but was not part of soundtrack album,[17] which was released by Milan Records on 16 April 2015.[16]

Soundtrack listingEdit

1."Sabine"Peter Gregson2:41
2."What Happened"Peter Gregson2:05
3."This Is Your Eden"Peter Gregson1:32
4."The Task Ahead"Peter Gregson1:34
5."Walking Out"Peter Gregson1:21
6."From Paris to the Aquaduct"Peter Gregson1:41
7."It's a Shrine"Peter Gregson1:12
8."Travelling to Marly"Peter Gregson3:23
9."The Sluice Gate"Peter Gregson2:55
10."Don't Ask Me"Peter Gregson3:55
11."When You Are Strong Enough"Peter Gregson3:00
12."Making Love"Peter Gregson2:18
13."Marie-Claire's Toys"Peter Gregson1:10
14."The Music Comes from the Heavens"Peter Gregson3:24
15."A Little Chaos"Peter Gregson5:37
16."End Roller"Peter Gregson3:21
Total length:41:11



BBC Films revealed footage from the film as part of their BBC Films Sizzle Showreel 2013 on 25 November 2013.[18] First stills of Kate Winslet were released on 22 July 2014 with the announcement of film's premiere at 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.[19] Three images from the film featuring Winslet, Alan Rickman and Jennifer Ehle were released on 27 August 2014.[20] A scene from the film featuring Winslet and Rickman was revealed on 9 September 2014.[11] The full-length official trailer was revealed on 19 December 2014.[21][22] The first poster and another trailer were released on 20 January 2015.[23] On 11 June 2015, another scene from the film featuring Stanley Tucci was released.[24]


The film had its world premiere at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival as the closing night film on 13 September 2014.[25][26] It was then shown in gala screenings as Love Gala at the 2014 BFI London Film Festival on 17 October 2014.[27][28] Rickman presented the film at Camerimage film festival in November 2014.[29] The United States premiere was held at the Sonoma International Film Festival on 25 March 2015.[30] It had a theatrical release in Australia on 26 March 2015 and in UK on 17 April 2015.[31]

It was initially set for a theatrical release on 27 March 2015 in the United States[32] but it was later pulled out.[33] Focus Features finally gave the film a theatrical and VOD release simultaneously in United States on 26 June 2015.[34]


Box officeEdit

As of July 2015, the film has been opened in fourteen territories including Australia and UK and had grossed $10,084,623 worldwide.[3][4]

Critical responseEdit

Winslet and Rickman at the screening of the film at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.

The film generated mixed reviews from critics, with the performances from the cast being highly praised. As of June 2020, the film holds a 48% approval rating on review aggregator, Rotten Tomatoes, based on 92 reviews with an average score of 5.41/10. The site's consensus states that "Stylish and well-acted without ever living up to its dramatic potential, A Little Chaos is shouldered by the impressive efforts of a talented cast."[35] At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted mean rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film holds an average score of 51, based on 21 reviews, which indicates "mixed or average reviews".[36]

Catherine Shoard of The Guardian gave the film three out of five stars and wrote that "Winslet manages emotional honesty within anachronistic confines, and Schoenaerts escapes with dignity."[37] Mark Adams in his review for Screen International said, "the film is a gracefully made delight, replete with lush costumes, fruity performances, love amongst the flowerbeds and even a little mild peril. Yes it lacks real dramatic edge and may be seen as a typical British period costume film, but it is also a classily made pleasure that will delight its target audience."[38] David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter felt that "This decently acted film is agreeable entertainment, even if it works better on a scene by scene basis than in terms of overall flow."[39] Tim Robey in The Telegraph said in his review: "If you see only one film about 17th-century French landscape gardening this year, it probably ought to be A Little Chaos, a heaving bouquet of a picture."[40]

However, David Sexton of the London Evening Standard gave the film a negative review, saying that "Kate Winslet charms as a gardener at the Court of Louis XIV, but it's not enough to keep this inauthentic piece from wilting."[41] Dennis Harvey of Variety also criticized the film, writing that A Little Chaos is "all too tidy as it imposes a predictable, pat modern sensibility on a most unconvincing depiction of late 17th-century French aristocratic life."[42] Kaleem Aftab of The Independent gave the film two out of five stars, noting that while the performances were exceptional, the talents of the players were wasted. He wrote that "it all starts off so promisingly" and praised the camera work and language, but found it quickly fails as "a melancholic look at grief" where "at least four different genres [clash] against each other, occasionally in the same scene" and "the romance seems to take place off-screen." She concluded: "There was a 17-year gap between Rickman's first and second film and on this evidence it's easy to see why. While he can get performances out of the actors, he lacks command of pacing and plot."[43]

Historical accuracyEdit

Some of the film's characters are fictional, including Kate Winslet's Sabine de Barra. The film is set in 1682, but André Le Nôtre began work at Versailles in 1661. Le Nôtre was nearly 70 in 1682, twice the age he appears to be as portrayed by Schoenaerts in the film.[44] A garden much like that in the film exists at Versailles, the Salle de Bal or Bosquet de la Salle-de-Bal (the Forest Ballroom).[44]


  1. ^ a b "Peter Gregson Scoring Alan Rickman's 'A Little Chaos'". 19 November 2013.
  2. ^ "A LITTLE CHAOS (12A)". British Board of Film Classification. 27 March 2015. Retrieved 1 April 2015.
  3. ^ a b "A Little Chaos - International box office". Retrieved 22 April 2015.
  4. ^ a b "International Box Office Values (with updated Australian gross)". Retrieved 14 May 2015.
  5. ^ "Alan Rickman's 'A Little Chaos' Sells to Focus Features". Retrieved 26 June 2015.
  6. ^ "Lionsgate U.K. to Finance Alan Rickman's 'A Little Chaos,' Starring Kate Winslet". Hollywood Reporter. 7 March 2013. Retrieved 12 May 2013.
  7. ^ "Kate Winslet joins A Little Chaos". The Nation (Pakistan). Archived from the original on 7 June 2013. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
  8. ^ a b "Alan Rickman, A Little Chaos". Screen Daily. Archived from the original on 9 September 2014. Retrieved 9 September 2014.
  9. ^ "Kate Winslet & Matthias Schoenaerts To Star In Alan Rickman Directed Period Drama 'A Little Chaos'". 1 January 2014. Archived from the original on 22 May 2013. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  10. ^ "The Man who would be King". 1 January 2014. Archived from the original on 20 November 2014. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  11. ^ a b "Watch Kate Winslet meet the king in Alan Rickman's 'A Little Chaos'". Entertainment Weekly. 9 September 2014. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  12. ^ a b "About the Production". National Gardening Week. 11 March 2015. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  13. ^ "Palace closed for filming of Kate Winslet's new movie". Oxford Mail. 21 June 2013. Retrieved 2 May 2013.
  14. ^ "A Little Chaos". 21 June 2013.
  15. ^ "British Films Directory". 21 June 2013.
  16. ^ a b c d "A Little Chaos (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)". Retrieved 22 April 2015.
  17. ^ "A Little Chaos Soundtrack List". Retrieved 22 April 2015.
  18. ^ "BBC Films Sizzle Showreel 2013". 1 January 2014.
  19. ^ "TIFF First Look: Kate Winslet In 'A Little Chaos,' Paul Dano As Brian Wilson In 'Love & Mercy' & Julianne Moore In 'Still Alice'". 22 July 2014. Archived from the original on 25 July 2014. Retrieved 22 July 2014.
  20. ^ "New TIFF Photos: Bill Murray's 'St. Vincent,' Kate Winslet In 'Little Chaos' & Aubrey Plaza In 'Ned Rifle'". 27 August 2014. Archived from the original on 27 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  21. ^ "Watch: Kate Winslet Searches for Eden in Alan Rickman's 'A Little Chaos' Trailer". 19 December 2014.
  22. ^ "'A Little Chaos' Trailer: Kate Winslet Creates the Gardens of Versailles". Hollywood Reporter. 19 December 2014.
  23. ^ "A Little Chaos' UK Poster Released". 20 January 2015. Archived from the original on 20 January 2015. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  24. ^ "Stanley Tucci Makes a Grand Entrance in This Exclusive Clip from A Little Chaos". -Vanity Fair. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
  25. ^ "Alan Rickman's 'A Little Chaos' to Close Toronto Film Festival". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 22 July 2014.
  26. ^ "A Little Chaos". Deadline. Retrieved 22 July 2014.
  27. ^ "Full Line-Up Announced For the BFI London Film Festival 2014". 6 September 2014.
  28. ^ "Love Gala A Little Chaos". whatson.bfi.org.uk. Archived from the original on 6 September 2014. Retrieved 6 September 2014.
  29. ^ "Alan Rickman to Receive Camerimage's Kieslowski Award". Variety. Retrieved 26 November 2014.
  30. ^ Chagollon, Steve (9 March 2015). "Sonoma Film Fest Kicks Off With Alan Rickman's 'A Little Chaos'". Variety. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  31. ^ "Alan Rickman's 'A Little Chaos' UK release dates". Retrieved 27 August 2014.
  32. ^ "Alan Rickman's 'A Little Chaos' Sells to Focus Features". Retrieved 27 August 2014.
  33. ^ "Kate Winslet's 'A Little Chaos' loses release date". Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  34. ^ "Michael Keaton Starrer 'The Founder' Gets Release Date; Focus World Rounds Out 2015 Slate". Retrieved 27 March 2015.
  35. ^ "A Little Chaos (2014)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 2 June 2020.
  36. ^ "A Little Chaos". Metacritic. Retrieved 22 April 2015.
  37. ^ "A Little Chaos review – Louis XIV gardening romp borders on ridiculous". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  38. ^ "A Little Chaos review". Screen Daily. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  39. ^ "'A Little Chaos': Toronto Review". Retrieved 11 September 2014.
  40. ^ Robey, Tim. "The Telegraph Review of A Little Chaos". The Telegraph. Retrieved 22 April 2015.
  41. ^ "Toronto Film Festival: A Little Chaos - film review". Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  42. ^ "Toronto Film Review: 'A Little Chaos'". Retrieved 14 September 2014.
  43. ^ "A Little Chaos, review: Alan Rickman lacks pacing and plot in return to director's chair". The Independent. 15 September 2014. Retrieved 17 September 2014.
  44. ^ a b "A Little Chaos: leads historical accuracy down the garden path". The Guardian. 23 September 2015. Retrieved 3 December 2016.

External linksEdit