There’s something to be said about a good sports movie. They often have the most tired formulas, and easily devolve into sap and lazy storytelling, but when done right their predictable structures feel less-paint-by numbers and more like the comfort of a familiar friend. But there are two characteristics of writer/director Caroline Bottaro’s debut feature Queen to Play that don’t automatically denote a generic sports movie: it’s French, and it’s about chess. However, Bottaro uses the formula to such an advantage that it feels like sleight of hand as she delivers a film that’s simple but engrossing, one that’s familiar but slyly touching. Helene (Sandrine Bonnaire) is a working class mother. She cleans apartments and hotel rooms for a living. Her husband Ange (Francis Renaud) is a day laborer who sees his friends getting laid off left and right and is a afraid that he’ll be the next. Expenses are always on their mind, and they squeak by one month to the next. Their daughter is having trouble navigating adolescence with her “common” parents, self-righteously resenting the economic place from which she came. They are, in short, a family all too aware of their “place” on the social ladder, Helene especially since she has the job of cleaning up after the wealthy. One morning she curiously watches an American couple (one of the two Americans, surprisingly, is Jennifer Beals, but she isn’t the only familiar stateside face in the film) playing chess on a porch as she cleans their room.