Reviewed by Daniel Janks: actor, creative director, writer, cynic, father, husband. He was born in 1977 and has still not died. He loves many things, chief among which are his mythic wife and odd girl-child. Visit his website.
Director Alan Rickman
Writer Jeremy Brock
Cast Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Alan Rickman
AGE RESTRICTION: [R]
It’s not a kids movie, but there’s nothing in it that’ll make their eyes fall out of their skulls.
This is a great film. It’s about love, and feminism, and French-ness and the ridiculousness of royalty. It’s about loss and learning to live again. It’s about taking chances and finding salvation in the chaos that lurks just beyond the borders of the illusion of order we impose on the world.
It’s the 17th century and Louis XIV is building the palace of Versailles. André Le Notre has been awarded the task of designing and building the palace’s epic gardens. When he appoints the unlikeliest of gardeners to take on the job of creating the little fountainry smack bang in the middle of it all, he gets more than he’s bargained for. Madame Sabine De Barra is a genius, but she’s a she, and she also has her own ideas about order, and chaos, life and love. Oh, and she might be mad.
With a great cast comes great acting. The film is helmed by Winslet and Schoenaerts as Le Notre and De Barra. Alan Rickman both directs and plays King Louis. The likes of Stanley Tucci, Helen McCrory and a host of others back them up.
Winslet is fabulous. Her De Barra is beautiful but real, a little mad but determined to ignore the fact, full of sorrow but also of wonder. She is fierce but delicate and the more lost she becomes in the pomp and primp of the royal court, the more beauty and solace she finds in her own simple life among her plants and trees.
Schoenaerts is a relative newcomer to Hollywood. He rocketed to renown in the Belgian film Bullhead and since has been ploughing through projects including The Drop, Far from the Madding Crowd and Rust and Bone. He is a great actor. Full of nuance and moody intensity. In this film he may be a bit too intensely moody. But it fits the role, and acts as a great counterpoint to Winslet’s more whimsical, feminine moodiness.
Directing and writing
The film sees yet another branching out of an actor into the behind the camera world of directing. Rickman, veteran actor famous for his roles in Die Hard, the Harry Potter films and Love Actually, seems as adept and in control, of the entire film as he was with his own characters and performances.
This film is whimsical and serious, at the same time. It’s funny and sad, charming and epic. And the delicate mix of these seemingly contradictory elements is no easy thing and very impressive. It’s this duality that gives the film its charm and beauty. It’s this juaxtapositon of moods and styles that lifts the film from the mundane to the awesome. And I attribute it all to Rickman’s direction.
This film is wonderful. It’s charming and fun and sad and interesting. It loses it’s way a little towards the end, but not so’s you’d notice it overly. Go see it if you like gaudy costumes and intricate performances.