Films & Schedules

  • Un Conte de Noël
    A Christmas Tale

  • Arnaud Desplechin

150 minutes

Production Company:
Why Not Productions/France 2 Cinéma/ Wild Bunch/Bac Films
Pascal Caucheteux
Arnaud Desplechin, Emmanuel Bourdieu
Production Designer:
Dan Bevan
Eric Gautier
Laurence Briaud
Nicolas Cantin, Sylvain Malbrant
Grégoire Hetzel
Principal Cast: Catherine Deneuve, Mathieu Amalric, Jean-Paul Roussillon, Anne Cosigny, Melvil Poupaud

Canadian Distributor:
Seville Pictures
US Distributor:
IFC Films
International Sales Agent:
Wild Bunch

TIFF Tags: Family 

Monday September 0809:15PM SCOTIABANK THEATRE 2 Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist
Wednesday September 1012:00PM SCOTIABANK THEATRE 2 Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist

Arnaud Desplechin gives more than a nod to Charles Dickens's A Christmas Story in his new film, Un Conte de Noël. In this masterfully articulated drama, simmering tensions threaten to turn the holiday season into a vitriolic Grand Guignol for the Vuillard family. Desplechin walks a knife edge with the material as he gingerly unpacks layers of sibling rivalry and buried grief, allowing the story to veer toward domestic cataclysm yet never losing command.

The Vuillards are a complicated family, touched by an old tragedy that casts a pall over their lives. Years ago, Abel (Jean-Paul Roussillon) and Junon (Catherine Deneuve) had a child, Joseph, who died of a rare genetic condition. Junon has just discovered she is suffering from the same disease. Her only hope is to find a bone-marrow donor among the members of her family.

Her surviving children lead separate lives from one another, but each is scarred by Joseph's death. The eldest, Elizabeth (Anne Consigny), is a reclusive playwright. Henri (Mathieu Amalric) is a raging alcoholic who relishes confrontation. Elizabeth effectively banished him from the family years ago and has not spoken to him since. Ivan (Melvil Poupaud), the youngest, is the most unaffected of the three.

On Christmas Day, the family will reunite, and Junon will reveal the details of her future. Will she undergo chemotherapy or search for a donor? What follows is a scatological romp through the dysfunction of this middle-class family. As they attempt to reconcile the past and plan the future, their own private tragedies silently fester between them.

Showcasing some of France's most renowned actors – who relish the challenges of Despechlin and Emmanuel Bourdieu's script – Un Conte de Noël reaches great heights of emotion, telling its story with elegance and control. This is filmmaking of the highest order.

Piers Handling

Arnaud Desplechin was born in Roubaix, France, and graduated from L'Institut des Hautes Études Cinématographiques in Paris. He is the writer-director of several features, including Comment je me suis disputé…(ma vie sexuelle) (96), which appeared at the Festival in 1996. Among his other films are La Vie des morts (91), La Sentinelle (92), Esther Kahn (00), En jouant ‘Dans la compagnie des hommes' (03), Rois et Reine (04), L'Aimée (07) and Un Conte de Noël (08).

Cadillac People's Choice Award