A Christmas Tale (2008)

I wanted to see A Christmas Tale (French: Un conte de Noël) last year around Christmas time but I searched the movie for weeks and I couldn't find it anywhere so I gave up on the idea of watching it. This year, I basically stumbled upon it and I watched it. 

Set around Christmas time, the film follows the Vuillard family —Junon (Catherine Deneuve) and Abel (Jean-Paul Roussillon), their daughter Elizabeth (Anne Consigny) and their sons Henri (Mathieu Amalric) and Ivan (Melvil Poupaud)— as they gather for the holidays when Junon discovers that she suffers from leukaemia, just like her first son who died at the age of 6, and needs a bone marrow transplant. The only compatible donors are Elizabeth's son, Paul (Emile Berling), and Henri, the black sheep of the family who returns after a 6-year-long banishment from the family.

The illness, however, has a relatively small role in the story as it's sidetracked by every single subplot the film has, which wouldn't be a problem if the writers cared about properly develop them. Instead, they just throw at us many interesting storylines—the hatred between Elizabeth and Henri, the secret agreement between Henri, Ivan and their cousin Simon (Laurent Capelluto)— with a lot of potentials and then seem to forget about them. Furthermore, the stories of the Vuillard family feels distant and cold and because of it, I was never invested in the characters.

Which is frustrating considering how much time A Christmas Tale spends to set up its characters and develop them. Sure, most of them are stereotypes —the supporting and understand old husband, a cold but fair mother, the black ship of the family who provokes everyone, the loving husband who never complains, the teenager who's trying to find his place in the world— but they feel real, characters worth caring for. Unfortunately, the script doesn't allow it.

Bac Films
Anyways, the all-star cast of some of the most famous and still living French actors does a wonderful job. The performance from Jean-Paul Roussillon as the understanding husband as well as the rock for the entire family is superb, and Anne Consigny gives a strong performance as the distressed elder sister who is enclosed in her own world and has been mourning for her entire life. Mathieu Amalric is also good as the obnoxious black sheep of the family and so is Chiara Mastroianni as Sylvia, Ivan's wife.

Overall though, A Christmas Tale feels like a wasted opportunity. The story is unevenly interesting and engaging, the characters aren't really anything new, and the film is just too cold to care about what happens to them.

1 comment :

  1. I saw this film some years ago. I liked it though I admit, the film could've used some trimming in the editing.