A Christmas Tale

User Score
6.9

Generally favorable reviews- based on 39 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 27 out of 39
  2. Negative: 7 out of 39

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User Reviews

  1. DavidK
    Dec 2, 2008
    2
    Among the worst movies out there today. The previews present this as a comedy and commentary on complicated families. It is neither. It's an over-long over-bearing jumble of disconnected "ideas." This emperor has no clothes. How is it possibly getting good reviews? We saw audience members fleeing mid-movie.
  2. [Anonymous]
    Nov 14, 2008
    10
    Desplechin's joyful, complex study of the constant contradiction and struggle in family life is a wondrous thing to experience. Recalls FANNY AND ALEXANDER even as it sends up the most classic holiday weekend cliches.
  3. JeanR.
    Dec 18, 2008
    10
    Superb movie. Maw should do herself a favor and stay away from complex, life-like contemporary French films. They are all deliberately "formless," like this one, because they're trying to imitate life, not wish it away.
  4. tj
    Dec 5, 2008
    2
    This movie is about an hour too long. The director makes the fundamental mistake of doing much more telling than showing, which left me feeling absolutely nothing for any of the characters. The film is clumsily shot and and edited. Is anyone else tired of these devices of having a central "problem" (in this case a bone marrow transplant) that seems to relieve the filmmakers of any need to This movie is about an hour too long. The director makes the fundamental mistake of doing much more telling than showing, which left me feeling absolutely nothing for any of the characters. The film is clumsily shot and and edited. Is anyone else tired of these devices of having a central "problem" (in this case a bone marrow transplant) that seems to relieve the filmmakers of any need to really flesh out their characters. Overrated and overlong. Expand
  5. Maw
    Dec 6, 2008
    2
    Agree with David K on this one. For any movie of this particular genre to be successful, the characters need to be likeable, the story needs to have some coherence and a semblence of direction, and it's helpful if the conflicts have a believeable resolution. This movie offers none of these, and feels extremely long. We walked out 20 minutes prior to the end, and probably should have Agree with David K on this one. For any movie of this particular genre to be successful, the characters need to be likeable, the story needs to have some coherence and a semblence of direction, and it's helpful if the conflicts have a believeable resolution. This movie offers none of these, and feels extremely long. We walked out 20 minutes prior to the end, and probably should have left in the middle. Expand
  6. BobW
    Jan 1, 2009
    3
    A dreadful, interminable film. I love European cinema, especially movies from France. But this was painful to sit through. For goodness sakes, stay away.
  7. kevin
    Jan 3, 2009
    10
    i'm not surprised by the middling user reviews for this. it's definitely artistic and unamerican (am i being redundant?), and it's not something that's easy to digest. that said, it contains real people and real emotions, something sadly missing from most movies these days. after viewing, i felt as if i had spent christmas with the family - a neat trick.
  8. KatharineC.
    Nov 28, 2008
    4
    How could anyone criticize a move that all the critics seem to love? I tend to like "art" movies with subtitles, but sitting through this darm family reunion was like a trip to the dentist's office: I kept wondering when it would end. At least the dentist's office with clean teeth... but here? This movie contained two and a half hours of lingering resentment, maternal apathy, How could anyone criticize a move that all the critics seem to love? I tend to like "art" movies with subtitles, but sitting through this darm family reunion was like a trip to the dentist's office: I kept wondering when it would end. At least the dentist's office with clean teeth... but here? This movie contained two and a half hours of lingering resentment, maternal apathy, and a Christmas that nobody would feel nostalgic about -- leaving viewers with nothing but the question, "So What?" The best moment in the theater was when a man stood and declared, "I don't care if it's in French, it's still not a good movie." And then he bravely walked out -- leaving we posers behind. Give me a root canal any day. Expand
  9. MalcolmW.
    Dec 21, 2008
    8
    Snappy editing? OVER-EDITING. Too many jump cuts that drench the emotion out of a scene. Where are the infamous French tracking-shots and long takes? Also, over-scored. One doesn't need to hear a plethora of music to get the point. Otherwise, impeccably written, acted and directed. But really, more work in the editing room: less editing, that is...just let the scenes flow.
  10. 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.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
  11. 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
    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).
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  12. 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...

Awards & Rankings

Metascore
84

Universal acclaim - based on 32 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 29 out of 32
  2. Negative: 0 out of 32
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.