Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
Original title: Un Conte De Noel
France, 2008. Why Not Productions, France 2 Cinema, Wild Bunch, Bac Films, Canal+, CineCinema, Centre National De La Cinematographie, C.R.R.A.V. Nord Pas de Calais, Région Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Sofica UGC 1. Scenario and dialogue by Emmanuel Bourdieu, Arnaud Desplechin, inspired by La Greffe by Jacques Asher, Jean-Pierre Jouet. Cinematography by Eric Gautier. Produced by Pascal Caucheteux. Music by Gregoire Hetzel, Mike Kourtzer. Production Design by Daniel Bevan. Costume Design by Nathalie Raoul. Film Editing by Laurence Briaud. Podcast: My Criterions. Cannes Film Festival 2008. National Society of Film Critics Awards 2008. New York Film Critics 2008. Online Film Critics Awards 2008. Toronto International Film Festival 2008.
Imagine if The Family Stone was an epic European masterpiece and you pretty much have this absolutely breathtaking film by Arnaud Desplechin (Kings And Queen). His humane touch is applied to a hilariously dysfunctional family that comes together one Christmas when it is learned that mom (Catherine Deneuve) has cancer and needs a bone marrow transplant. Mathieu Amalric plays the black sheep of the clan, hated by all members of the family to varying degrees, who despite being the least admired, turns out to be the most likely candidate to save his mother’s life. Meanwhile the siblings squabble, the daughter-in-law (Chiara Mastroianni, at the zenith of her appeal) struggles with the choices she’s made in life, the daughter struggles with her hatred for her brother and her young son’s encroaching mental illness and Jewish girlfriend Emmanuelle Devos tries to survive without actually celebrating the holiday at all. It’s deeply funny and touching, a surprising feat considering just how cruel these people sometimes get, and yet the film never keeps them beyond our emotional grasp. The two and a half hours melt by in a flash.