Directed by Alan Rickman, this straightforward and romantic film is easy to love if you are a fan of period drama films.
Starring Kate Winslet as Sabine, the story follows her as she challenges the sexual and class barriers that existed in the 1600’s to create one of the main gardens at King Louis XIV’s new palace at Versailles. This in turn causes her to become professionally and romantically involved with the court’s renowned landscape architect Andre Le Notre, played by Matthias Schoenaerts.
Although the film is directed with confidence by Rickman, the opening ten minutes of the film does seem a little bit chaotic itself when introducing the audience to the main characters – jumping backwards and forwards in a disjointed way. Everything feels a bit uptight and awkward.
However, it soon settles down and everything becomes a little more relaxed and really draws out some confident performances from the cast – even if it doesn’t overall challenge the actors abilities. Kate Winslet as the strong willed and opinionated Sabine once again proves how well suited she is to these period dramas, with her grace and elegance throughout. Alan Rickman provides an excellent performance as King Louis, making him as humane as possible and there is a lovely scene between him and Sabine sharing their grief (Sabine’s cause of grief is yet unknown in the film) surrounded by plants that seems to comfort both of them.
But despite this it is sad to say that the chemistry between Winslet and Schoenaerts looks a little bit forced in places and the audience is never fully convinced by the romantic relationship between them. In all fairness to Schoenaerts, the character Andre de Notre is an awkward one to play and make likeable because he is set in his ways and at first reluctant to change the way he thinks, plus a difficult relationship with his wife (played by the wonderful Helen McCrory) means his life isn’t exactly what he wanted.
The plot is straightforward and it is certainly a film that gradually draws you in slowly, which might frustrate some people looking for something with a bit more energy and pace. But it has been directed and filmed with style and manages to hold the audience’s attention from beginning to end.
If you love your period drama films, then you will certainly enjoy this gentle and tender story of a woman trying to change the normal conventions of what it meant to be a woman in the 1600’s.
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