5 Days of Christmas Movies: A Christmas Tale (2008)

3. The Family Drama

When it comes to Christmas movies, they are overwhelmingly cheery (Love Actually) or a classic story that has be retold countless times (A Christmas Carol). Then there are holiday movies that are dark, complex, family dramas. These are usually the best holiday films. Probably because they’re more than a little realistic.

A Christmas Tale, directed by Arnaud Desplechin, follows the Vuillard family during the days before Christmas. The matriarch Junon (Catherine Deneuve) needs a bone marrow transplant, which brings her alcoholic son, Henri (Mathieu Almaric) to the family’s festivities. Five years earlier, Elizabeth (Anne Consigny), the oldest Vuillard child and a depressed playwright, banished Henri from the family. The youngest child Ivan (Melvil Poupaud) watches as his siblings argue and as his marriage develop its own set of problems. The more the film delves into this family’s problems and secrets, it becomes clear that the Vuillards are the most dysfunctional family conceivable.

Despite this obvious dysfunction, the Vuillards are an entertaining group. Catherine Deneuve and Mathieu Almaric are two actors worth watching is anything they appear in. Jean-Paul Roussillon, a French character actor, shines in his supporting turn as the Vuillard patriarch Abel, who stands by as his wife and children address their many problems.

A Christmas Tale is endlessly enjoyable look at a family’s longstanding issues and how their problems just happen to coincide with the holidays.

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