A Christmas Tale

Rated 4.0

So if Four Christmases is merely a stocking stuffer, this is the new car out in the driveway with the big red ribbon around it. Or, no, it’s those musty family photo albums somebody always brings out and gathers everyone around at this time of year. Wait, no. It’s half-drunkenly flipping through the photo albums while sitting in the new car after dark, listening to a rather random playlist that mashes Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream up with “Love and Happiness,” smelling the mold on the pictures and the new car smell all at once, and watching through the frosty windshield as your family gets older. Oh yes, and in French. With this formally freewheeling home-for-the-haute-bourgeois-holidays tale, director Arnaud Desplechin, writing with Emmanuel Bourdieu, passes out several “oh, you shouldn’t have” gifts. It involves, among other plots, an unruly, alcoholic widower (Mathieu Amalric) emerging from family banishment as the only compatible bone marrow donor for his mother (Catherine Deneuve), who’s been diagnosed with the same cancer that claimed her firstborn son. Think Les Tenenbaums Royales, or Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander, but not quite in your size or style. Maybe you’ll grow into it.