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A Christmas Tale (2008)
"Un conte de Noël" (original title)

Not Rated  |   |  Comedy, Drama  |  21 November 2008 (USA)
7.1
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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 4,947 users   Metascore: 84/100
Reviews: 26 user | 130 critic | 32 from Metacritic.com

The troubled Vuillard family is no stranger to illness, grief, and banishment, but when their matriarch requires a bone-marrow transplant, the estranged clan reunites just in time for Christmas.

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(scenario and dialogue), (scenario and dialogue), 2 more credits »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Jean-Paul Roussillon ...
Abel - Junon's husband
...
Elizabeth Dédalus - Abel and Junon's oldest child
...
Henri Vuillard - Abel and Junon's middle child
...
Ivan Vuillard - - Abel and Junon's youngest child
...
Claude Dédalus- Elizabeth's husband
...
Faunia - Henri's lover
...
Sylvia Vuillard - Ivan's wife
...
Simon - Junon's nephew - the painter cousin
Emile Berling ...
Paul Dédalus - Elizabeth and Claude's son
Thomas Obled ...
Basile 'Baz' Vuillard - Ivan and Sylvia's son
Clément Obled ...
Baptiste - Ivan and Sylvia's son
Françoise Bertin ...
Rosaimée Vuillard - Abel's mother's girlfriend
...
Spatafora - the family friend at Roubaix
Azize Kabouche ...
Doctor Zraïdi - the oncologist
Edit

Storyline

The Vuillard family gathers: Junon and Abel, a daughter Elizabeth and her son Paul, Henri and a girlfriend, Ivan, his wife Sylvia and their young sons, and cousin Simon. Six years before, Elizabeth paid Henri's debts and demanded he never see her again or visit their parents' home. Paul, at 16, has mental problems and faces a clinical exam. Junon learns she needs a bone marrow transplant if she's to live beyond a few months: thus the détente bringing all together. Two family members have compatible marrow, but the spats, fights, cruel words, drunken toasts, and somewhat civilized bad behavior threaten all; plus Junon may simply refuse treatment. Do we know ourselves? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy | Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Official Sites:

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

21 November 2008 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Christmas Tale  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$63,837 (USA) (14 November 2008)

Gross:

$1,060,602 (USA) (30 January 2009)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Faunia (Emmanuelle Devos) is compared physically twice to Angela Bassett. See more »

Goofs

When Faunia introduces herself to Abel in the foyer, she takes off her glasses and shakes his hand. In the very next shot, as Abel is greeting Henri, she removes her glasses again. See more »

Quotes

Sylvia - Ivan's wife: When did it happen?
Simon - Junon's nephew - the painter cousin: What do you mean?
Sylvia - Ivan's wife: I want details. She mentioned a decision you all made. Tell me where and when. Was it here?
Simon - Junon's nephew - the painter cousin: Easter vacation, 1991. At the community centre. You were next door.
Sylvia - Ivan's wife: I remember. Is Ivan aware of this?
Simon - Junon's nephew - the painter cousin: It's history.
Sylvia - Ivan's wife: Was Ivan with you? Or did you and Henri decide our fate behind his back?
Simon - Junon's nephew - the painter cousin: Ivan was there.
Sylvia - Ivan's wife: What did you say?
Simon - Junon's nephew - the painter cousin: Henri and I were talking about you. Guy talk. Ivan was quiet, smiling. Then he said, "If I don't get her, I'll never get over it."
[...]
See more »

Connections

References Vertigo (1958) See more »

Soundtracks

Sonate en Si Mineur
Composed by Domenico Scarlatti
Performed by Scott Ross
Published by Erato Classics/SNC (1988)
See more »

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User Reviews

 
A loving film about some unlovable people
23 November 2008 | by (San Francisco) – See all my reviews

It just doesn't get much better than this for fans of movie-making…or fans of music, art, literature, philosophy…even algebra? Arnaud Desplechin uses Robert Altman's impressionistic approach to film-making taking multiple characters, plots lines then adding Altman's playfulness with cinematic technique to dazzle the viewer with a rich mix of ideas and allusions. Watching, you just don't want it to end.

The actors here—as in Altman—take center stage. Catherine Deneuve is the reluctant matriarch of some pretty messed-up siblings. We aren't ever clued in on the exact details of the rifts and jealousies. We just recognize them from our own family experiences. During an introduction to the cast of characters at the beginning of the film, the death of a young infant early in the family's history suggests that interpersonal problems will result, but it can't be the sole reason for the pathologies represented. As in life, it's never a simple thing to find the "reason" for conflict, unhappiness or even joy. We simply have to accept it and make the best of the situations before us. And this film is a wonderful demonstration of making the best of a real mess.

There's not a weak link in the cast. And as the bizarre begin to assemble for a very strange Christmas homecoming the delight we feel for being onlookers instead of participants is palpable in the audience.

I should warn that this is not a film in the tradition of "Home Alone" or "A Christmas Story." You may wait a long time for the Baby Jesus to arrive here (as the children on the screen do). It's more a film about family life and the peculiar kind of fulfillment we get from the strife that results. As with the "ghost wolf" in this family's basement, we're haunted by the familiar and the strange: it's both fearful and thrilling to see. And that's a very admirable accomplishment for Arnaud Desplechin.


36 of 49 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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