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84

Universal acclaim - based on 32 Critics What's this?

User Score
6.9

Generally favorable reviews- based on 36 Ratings

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  • Starring: , ,
  • Summary: Abel and Junon had two children, Joseph and Elizabeth. Victim of a rare genetic condition, Joseph's only hope was a bone marrow transplant. As they and Elizabeth were incompatible, his parents conceived a third child in the hope of saving their son. But little Henri too was unable to help his brother, and Joseph died at the age of seven. The Vuillard family has never recovered. Many years have passed, and family relationships are more strained than ever. In particular, those between Elizabeth, authoritarian head of the family and Henri, a cynical drop out who divides his time between women and drink. After a violent argument, Elizabeth banishes her feckless brother, cutting him off from his nephew, her son Paul - a tortured adolescent beset by serious mental problems. Masterfully directed and acted, by turns savage, bittersweet, darkly comic and unbearably moving, A Christmas Tale shows internationally acclaimed Desplechin at the height of his powers. (IFC Films) Expand
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 29 out of 32
  2. Negative: 0 out of 32
  1. 100
    A movie that is almost indecently satisfying and at the same time elusive, at once intellectually lofty -- marked by allusions to Emerson, Shakespeare and Seamus Heaney as well as Nietzsche -- and as earthy as the passionate provincial family that is its heart and cosmos and reason for being.
  2. Desplechin's films are great, chaotic, unsettling fun. This one's scored, elegantly, to a mixture of standards and classics and original music by Gregoire Hetzel.
  3. Roiling with laughter, tears, drunken confessions, revelatory soliloquies, pain, sorrow, hospital visits, and various kinds of love, A Christmas Tale is a smart, sprawling, and sublimely entertaining feast.
  4. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    75
    If feuds, drunken outbursts and thoughtless bed-hopping sound like fun, then A Christmas Tale is a hoot. Some wry humor runs through the course of the overly long saga. But there's not enough dark wit to mitigate the tedium and pretentiousness.
  5. Reviewed by: Bernard Besserglik
    70
    Despite the name recognition of such actors as Catherine Deneuve and Mathieu Amalric, foreign audiences might be deterred by the movie's 143-minute length and the profusion of characters and interwoven story lines.
  6. Characters occasionally address the camera, which helps disentangle the competing story lines of madness, adultery, and betrayal.

See all 32 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 7 out of 12
  2. Negative: 4 out of 12
  1. Aug 27, 2010
    10
    From an American standpoint, it seems like a strange notion to gather an all-star cast to create a moving drama, especially under the guise of a Christmas film, but this is France we're talking about, and director Arnaud Desplechin (along with the whole cast) more than delivers. I was reminded a lot of "The Royal Tenenbaums" with the family struggles, and in many ways the two are similar. However, instead of wittiness being infused into the dialogue, Desplechin reserves the quirkiness for the camerawork with uncanny cinematography and editing. This lead to a strange dichotomy in which everything on screen was very tense and dramatic, but as a viewer I felt resilient and entertained the whole way through - after all, (family) drama is something we all can relate to. Expand
  2. Sep 11, 2013
    9
    Very tense and sensitive movie. The actors have never been so right ,and well directed, and the photography is simply amazing. Although the subject is dramatic, there is a strange sense of irreality pervading in the most beautiful moments (The Christmas Play by the Children, the love night between Simon and Sylvia... Expand
  3. Dec 26, 2013
    7
    Today is Christmas Day, so it is the most apposite time to watch this French drama, rife with cancer, marrow transplant, siblings rivalry, unstable mentality, chronic depression, familial incest and distant mother-child relationship, very Christmasy!

    A follow-up of KINGS & QUEEN (2004, 6/10), French art house director Arnaud Desplechin concocts a fine potpourri of familial entanglements around the bourgeois Vuillard family, opens with a consequential animated preamble of the loss of their eldest son Joseph at the age of 6 due to a hereditary blood disease while no compatible marrow transplant is found in both parents, the daughter Elizabeth (Consigny) and the second son Henri (Amalric), who is conceived to offer a cure to his elder brother. But time goes on, a third son Ivan (Poupaud) is born, and now they are all grown-ups, then the matriarch Junon (Denueve) discovers that she suffers from the same disease, the only compatible donors are Henri and Elizabeth’s son Paul (Berling), hence this Christmas, a family reunion is endowed with a more grave determinant, especially for the black sheep in the family Henri, after a 6-year banishment (due to an unspecified riff with Elizabeth), his return with his new Jewish girlfriend Faunia (Devos) will undoubtedly thrust the tension with Elizabeth’s family and have an impact on Junon’s final resolve to her impending treatment.

    Screen time is almost equally allotted to the all-star cast with their own stories intermingle in a short span of the timeline, although the main stream focuses on Henri and Junon’s reconciliation, but it is not a beatific movie to bury the hatchet and embrace a pristine future, every family has its distinctive script written with plenitude of relatable interactions, notably, the mutual attraction between Ivan’s wife Sylvia (played by Chiara Mastroianni, Denueve’s real life daughter with Marcello Mastroianni) and Ivan’s cousin Simon (Capelluto) clicks wonderfully in the latter part of the film, it is very French as well, for moralistic puritans and prudes, it is a sheer crevice in their convictions which will prompt harsh opprobrium.

    One trait of superfluity is the chunk of monologues, colloquies with staccato coherence, loose ends are all over the place, we can never decipher the real motivations and reasons behind certain behaviors which adhere to a particular terrain of mores; also the peephole shots introduces each chapter gives the film a stage structure and the occasional talk-to-the-camera shtick often comes out of nowhere, they may variegate the viewers’ recipiency but are inconsistent in the plot development and engender some distractions hinder the appreciation.

    Amalric and Mastroianni are my pick among the ensemble, he is a true thespian with utter devotion while she bears her father’s resemblance and an arresting existence whenever she is on screen. Devos is enjoyable as an unobtrusive intruder (reminds me to watch an Angela Basset film), Denueve is as distant as always, graceful but stereotyped, Poupaud is too damn good-looking for his shyness and benevolence and Consigny is perpetually frowned and distressed, enclosed in her own little world, one might feel too depressed to invest in her.

    In conclusion, it is not your average Christmas flick, but a less chic showpiece about kindred liaisons than Assayas’ SUMMER HOURS (2008, 8/10).
    Expand

See all 12 User Reviews

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