fbpx

A CHRISTMAS TALE

Director: ARNAUD DESPLECHIN

FRANCE • 2008 SUBTITLED • COLOUR • ANAMORPHIC • DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO • 35MM • 150 MIN


AS STRANGE AS IT MIGHT SEEM, JANUARY IS ACTUALLY THE RIGHT MOMENT TO WATCH ARNAUD DESPLECHIN’S LATEST EXPANSIVE DRAMA, SINCE IT’S FIERCELY UNSENTIMENTAL YET DEEPLY SYMPATHETIC FAMILY PORTRAIT OFFERS A WELCOME ANTIDOTE TO JUST SO MUCH SEASONAL SLUSH.
Actually, it sounds decidedly schmaltzy, since the story revolves around leukaemia: mater familias Catherine Deneuve lost a son at an early age to the disease, and now she’s in need of a bone marrow transplant or it will take her too. A rare blood-group suggests a donor from within the family, so over a wintry holiday season they all gather. The consequences are predictably fractious, since successful playwright Anne Consigny once tried to have black-sheep brother Mathieu Amalric legally barred from contacting them, while conciliatory Melvil Poupaud struggles to keep the peace between his siblings.
It’s a charmingly familiar routine, as they eat themselves senseless and vegetate in front of the TV, but what’s frank and truthful about the film is its willingness to concede how easy it is to feel like a stranger in your own family, when all the component parts are just such different people. Deneuve is sovereign as ever. Underplaying the wry comic dialogue and toning down the emotion even in the face of terminal illness, she’s as marvellous as Amalric’s turn as the free spirit whose superficial caprices mask deeper bonds. Desplechin is generous to his voluminous cast (Chiara Mastroianni and Emmanuelle Devos also feature) and sometimes seems to be taking the scenic route, but his destination is never in doubt. This is a wise, characterful and utterly captivating film. — Trevor Johnston.

Book Tickets

}