A Christmas Tale
Review by Matthew Tsang
Arnaud Desplechin's heavy-hitting drama is essentially about a dysfunctional family reuniting for the Christmas holiday. However, there is much more to it – a perfect set-up makes audiences salivate at the thought of the troubled characters meeting. The film has moments of brilliance and dark comedy that make the lengthy film feel less than it's full two and half hours.
The film opens with the story of Abel and Junon's first son, Joseph. At a young age, Joseph is diagnosed with a disease in which the only cure is a matching bone marrow transplant, so the married couple turns to their youngest daughter Elizabeth as a potential donor. Unfortunately, the daughter isn't a match for the brother, and Joseph dies at the tender age of six. Fast forward to the present, and the melancholic Elizabeth, in need of serious counsel, is now married with a schizophrenic teenage son, Paul. She has two younger brothers, the unpredictable and self-destructive middle brother, Henri, who was banished by her after having needed to bail him out of his last predicament, and Ivan, the sweet, and slightly naive youngest child with a beautiful wife, who seems to have received the aftermath of the family's initial problems. When all these characters reunite for the first time in half a decade, the result is more (delightful) chaos between extremely convincing characters you don't understand or relate to just enough to know that this dysfunction, however much it is beyond you, is very real.
Desplechin does well in providing the audience with messages about family love, despair, and trauma. When the movie ends, audiences are convinced that sometimes the most unrealistic characters and situations on film can be the most realistic in real life.
A Christmas Tale
Arnaud Desplechin | France | 2008 | 151min
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