Hélène, a chambermaid at a small hotel by the sea, glimpses a vacationing couple playing chess on the balcony. The woman -- sensual, confident, absorbed in something challenging -- is everything that Hélène is not, and would like to be. She has her hair cut like the woman's, but that makes no difference at all. She acquires a satin nightdress like hers, but Hélène's husband doesn't even notice. What Hélène needs is not a superficial make-over, but a passion. She learns chess, the thing that attracted her to that balcony in the first place.
How she does so, what she learns along the way, and how Hélène's passion transforms every relationship in her life, is the substance of the movie. Chess is not without its dark side. Many of its champions were at least partly mad (Paul Morphy, Bobby Fischer) and some of its adherents became so drawn in they abandon the rest of their lives (Marcel du Champ). Hélène, however, does not become lost to ambition or gain the World Championship or destroy others' happiness -- this is not THOR. QUEEN TO PLAY is a delicate, wry, humane film about change, and it stays on a human level. Sandrine Bonnaire as Hélène and Kevin Kline as her chess teacher are both superb. See this movie.