The 2011 drama “Queen to Play” from Studio Canal was written and directed by Caroline Bottaro, based on the acclaimed novel “La Joueuse d’echec” (The Chess Player) by Bertina Henrichs. Starring: Kevin Kline, Sandrine Bonnaire, Valérie Lagrange, Francis Renaud, Alexandra Gentil, Alice Pol, Didier Ferrari, Laurence Colussi, Élisabeth Vitali, Daniel Martin, Dominic Gould and Jennifer Beals.
Hélene (Sandrine Bonnaire), a middle-aged woman who earns her living doing domestic work for families living in the scenic French Riviera region, suddenly becomes enthralled with the idea of learning the game of chess after seeing a chess board in one of her clients homes. The client is the retired Doctor Kröger (Kevin Kline), who is a bit tempermental and cranky, but indulges Hélene requests and begins to teach her the rules of the game as well as how the game of chess is played out in real life.
As Hélene begins to play the game with Dr. Kröger, her attention to her own husband, home and teenage daughter begin to suffer. Kröger makes each chess session a bit more complicated for Hélene by mixing in metaphors that cause her to take a closer look at her own personality behavior and life as a whole. Eventually, the chess sessions begin to take on a sensual atmosphere, as the mental stimulation of the game is likened to the erotic foreplay that leads to lovemaking.
Both Hélene’s husband Ange(Frances Renaud) and her daughter Lisa (Alexandra Gentil) begin to take notice of the change in her attitude and behavior; her husband begins to suspect that there is more going on between his wife and her client than mere cleaning duties, while Lisa dreads the fact that she may become trapped in the lifestyle of her mother, doomed to a life of poverty.
But the biggest puzzle for Hélene is her own self; it’s apparent to the doctor that she is suppressing her true self because she doesn’t fully appreciate the talents that she possesses. Her emotions and motives seem to be confused as well and Hélene’s obsession with the game of chess seems to be her escape from the dealing with her real world.
Although Kröger questions the reasons for taking the time to teach Hélene how to play chess, their afternoon sessions begin to transform both of their lives which was in dire need of some excitement. But as their lives are turned upside down by the game of chess, Ange and Lisa may have a more difficult time learning Hélene’s new rules.