A Christmas Tale (2008) Un Conte De Noel ***

December 11th, 2020
Author: Meredith Taylor

Director: Arnaud Desplechin | Cast: Catherine Denueve, Mathieu Amalric, Anne Consigny, Melvil Poupard, Chiara Mastroianni Cert | 150 mins

Don’t’ expect cosy carols round the tree and a starry-eyed Christmas get-together. But if you’re up for a warts-an-all story of family dysfunction then this one’s for you. Catherine Deneuve is the cool matriarch Junon, inviting the family back for the holidays. But it’s not because she wants them all home. The reason is far more sinister and more selfish.

Smoking her way elegantly through this lengthy family saga Deneuve is a perfect picture of emotional detachment – and possibly the key to why her children are all so screwed up. The fun and games lie in guessing who is the most devoted of her breed, and she plays them all off against each other in ways that will be painfully obvious. Family members gradually bring their lives, loves and secrets to the party in rain-soaked Roubaix. Eldest son Henri (Matthiew Almaric) is a bankrupt alcoholic who has fallen out with his playwrite sister, Elizabeth (Anne Consigny), a depressive with a troubled son and an unreliable husband. Their younger brother Ivan and his seductive wife Sylvie (Chiara Mastroianni) have two challenging boys but seems content until we discover her crush on cousin Simon who secretly lusts after her too and is wasting his life as a painter.

Quite a normal family get together then. Jean-Paul Roussillon is the wise old pater familias Abel, who dotes on them all and offers plenty of advice, lashings of red wine and the odd ‘coup de champagne’ in this well-observed and enjoyable drama that possibly echoes most people’s family Christmas at the end of the day. MT

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