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A Christmas Tale
IMDB Rating: 7.1/10 from 12 votes
Release: 11 December 2008 (Netherlands) /

A Christmas Tale

Genre: Comedy, Drama
Director: Arnaud Desplechin,
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: The Vuillard family gathers: Junon and Abel, a daughter Elizabeth and her son Paul, Henri and a girlfriend, Ivan, his wife Sylvia and their young sons, and cousin Simon. Six years before, Elizabeth paid Henri's debts and demanded he never see her again or visit their parents' home. Paul, at 16, has mental problems and faces a clinical exam. Junon learns she needs a bone marrow transplant if she's to live beyond a few months: thus the détente bringing all together. Two family members have compatible marrow, but the spats, fights, cruel words, drunken toasts, and somewhat civilized bad behavior threaten all; plus Junon may simply refuse treatment. Do we know ourselves? Written by <[email protected]>

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Critic Reviews


It just doesn't get much better than this for fans of movie-making…or fans of music, art, literature, philosophy…even algebra? Arnaud Desplechin uses Robert Altman's impressionistic approach to film-making taking multiple characters, plots lines then adding Altman's playfulness with cinematic technique to dazzle the viewer with a rich mix of ideas and allusions. Watching, you just don't want it to end.

The actors here—as in Altman—take center stage. Catherine Deneuve is the reluctant matriarch of some pretty messed-up siblings. We aren't ever clued in on the exact details of the rifts and jealousies. We just recognize them from our own family experiences. During an introduction to the cast of characters at the beginning of the film, the death of a young infant early in the family's history suggests that interpersonal problems will result, but it can't be the sole reason for the pathologies represented. As in life, it's never a simple thing to find the "reason" for conflict, unhappiness or even joy. We simply have to accept it and make the best of the situations before us. And this film is a wonderful demonstration of making the best of a real mess.

There's not a weak link in the cast. And as the bizarre begin to assemble for a very strange Christmas homecoming the delight we feel for being onlookers instead of participants is palpable in the audience.

I should warn that this is not a film in the tradition of "Home Alone" or "A Christmas Story." You may wait a long time for the Baby Jesus to arrive here (as the children on the screen do). It's more a film about family life and the peculiar kind of fulfillment we get from the strife that results. As with the "ghost wolf" in this family's basement, we're haunted by the familiar and the strange: it's both fearful and thrilling to see. And that's a very admirable accomplishment for Arnaud Desplechin.

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