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

December 11th, 2012
Author: Meredith Taylor

Director: Arnaud Desplechin

Cast: Catherine Denueve, Mathieu Amalric, Anne Consigny, Melvil Poupard, Chiara Mastroianni

Cert 15 150 mins   French with subtitles

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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 dysfunctional family; 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 the part she’s a perfect picture of emotional detachment and possibly the key to why her children are all so screwed up. The fun and games will be to guess who is the most devoted of her breed. Family members gradually bring their lives, loves and sad 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). She is a depressive with a problem son and an unreliable husband. Their younger brother Ivan and his seductive wife Sylvie (Chiara Mastroianni) have two challenging boys but seem to be happy until we discover that she is keen on cousin Simon who secretly lusts after her 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 is probably more similar to most people’s family Christmas at the end of the day. MT

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