Metascore
84

Universal acclaim - based on 32 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 29 out of 32
  2. Negative: 0 out of 32
  1. The Vuillards, however fractured, know one another's rhythms and rituals, and Desplechin knows just how to convey them in the subtlest of ways.
  2. 100
    At last, a great contemporary holiday movie that's strictly for grown-ups - a holiday movie that really is a moviegoer's holiday from desultory daily fare.
  3. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    100
    With at least nine primary characters and running two and a half hours, it's a big, fat novel of a movie - a domestic epic that fuses bitterness and forgiveness in completely satisfying ways.
  4. Characters occasionally address the camera, which helps disentangle the competing story lines of madness, adultery, and betrayal.
  5. 88
    For long stretches A Christmas Tale seems to be going nowhere in particular and using a lot of dialogue to do so. These are not boring stretches. The movie is 151 minutes long and doesn't feel especially lengthy. The actors are individually good. They work together to feel like a family.
  6. 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.
  7. I'd be more inclined to call this French dysfunctional family epic gabby and preeningly self-indulgent – in a word, annoying.
  8. Reviewed by: Stina Chyn
    70
    Two-and-a-half hours of family bickering, bantering, and pummeling can be draining for the viewer, particularly when many of the characters are easy to dislike.
  9. 70
    Their endless groupings and regroupings, their brief encounters and power struggles are framed by an armory of cinematic devices that will be familiar to any Desplechin devotee.
  10. 100
    What results is a captivating portrait of the most gorgeously fractious dysfunctional family.
  11. Though overly self-conscious, this "Tale" is nonetheless wry, observant and frequently heartbreaking. It's also bound to make you feel better about your own holiday plans.
  12. Is A Christmas Tale a masterpiece? Maybe. I have to play with it longer. It's certainly Desplechin's most accessible film, in part because its dysfunctional-family-holiday-reunion genre is so comfy and its palette so warm.
  13. 100
    Darkly hilarious, brilliantly acted.
  14. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    90
    Desplechin is an inspired impurist. His Christmas Tale is untidy, overstuffed and delicious: a genuine holiday feast.
  15. 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.
  16. 75
    The film's success or failure depends almost entirely on a viewer's ability to relate to and become involved in the lives of the characters. We are with them for less than a week and, during that short time, we come to understand the lifetime of hurt and misunderstanding that stands between them.
  17. 88
    Dark secrets are unlocked, words draw more blood than punches, and Desplechin turns one family into a universe that resembles life as a startling work of art.
  18. 100
    The Vuillards are not an easy family, and A Christmas Tale is not an easy movie. But by the end, what Desplechin has given us -- in his own inexplicable way, which is sometimes meandering and sometimes piercingly direct, and sometimes both at once -- is a benediction.
  19. With Desplechin, it doesn't ever feel as though he's straining to show us things. It's more like we're just hanging out. We're in this house, and by some strange coincidence, every time we turn around, something interesting is happening.
  20. The most emotionally rich and cinematically thrilling film I've seen all year, a film that pulses with human life in all its terrible and beautiful irrationality.
  21. 75
    It's the definition of a film meant to be admired more than loved, but Desplechin's fierce intelligence and uncompromising sense of character come through, as does some of the sharp wit and stylistic flourishes left over from his last film, 2004's "Kings And Queen."
  22. It sure ain't the Christmas of Dickens's imaginings. Dysfunctional overachievers all, the Vuillards are a family bizarre enough to make the Royal Tenenbaums look like candidates for a Hallmark card.
  23. 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.
  24. 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.
  25. 70
    Watching A Christmas Tale, with its bursts of old movies, dregs of empty bottles, lines from books, and fragments of half-forgotten conversations, is like getting to know a family other than your own by leafing through its scrapbooks and laughing at its photograph albums, while it bickers in the next room over stuff you may never understand.
  26. Reviewed by: Richard Schickel
    70
    It seemed to me as I left the theater that A Christmas Tale was a little too jumpy for its own good, with too many characters and plot points hastily interwoven. But I've come think that it is faithful to its essential purpose, which is to disprove the Tolstoyan dictum that unhappy families are each miserable in their own ways.
  27. 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.
  28. Reviewed by: Derek Elley
    60
    Largely thanks to the snappy editing, short scenes and a strong cast led by a matronly Deveuve and Amalric's enjoyable perf as the black sheep of the family, A Christmas Tale never devolves into a tedious two-and-a-half hours of self-examination. But it also never goes very far, either.
  29. 90
    A heady plum pudding of a movie--studded with outsized performances and drenched in cinematic brio. The concoction is over-rich, yet irresistible.
  30. Density of detail and intensity of experience are the twin distinctions of A Christmas Tale, a long, improbably funny and very beautiful film.
  31. 80
    Even though it's pretentious and overlong, A Christmas Tale is still maddeningly engaging, thanks in large part to its attractive and gifted cast.
User Score
6.9

Generally favorable reviews- based on 36 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 7 out of 12
  2. Negative: 4 out of 12
  1. 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).
    Full Review »
  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... Full Review »
  3. 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. Full Review »