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A Christmas Tale | 2008 | NR | - 6.5.5

Upon learning that their matriarch (Catherine Deneuve) has leukemia, the estranged Vuillard family must put their differences aside and choose a bone marrow donor, during a tumultuous Christmas reunion. Also with Jean-Paul Roussillon, Mathieu Amalric, Emile Berling and Francoise Bertin. Directed by Arnaud Desplechin. In French with English subtitles. [2:32]

SEX/NUDITY 6 - A husband and a wife undress as they get ready for bed (the woman wears a nightgown that reveals her bare back and cleavage and she removes her panties), the man takes off his shirt (we see his bare chest) and the woman sits on him as they talk and kiss; the woman kisses the man's chest and stomach, the man asks if she's slept with other men, he moves so he is on top, he kisses her chest and the scene ends.
 Two women try on clothes in a dressing room (one woman's bare breasts are visible). Paintings with partially nude women are seen in a few scenes (we see the sides of torsos and bare breasts).
 A man and a married woman are shown in bed together, the woman stands, the man touches her legs, stomach, face, head and hair, and he removes her clothing (we see her standing in a bra and panties). A woman helps a man remove his shirt (we see his bare back and chest), she rubs the man's back briefly, they lie in bed together, she begins to remove his pants and the scene ends. A husband and his wife kiss passionately.
 A teenage boy is seen shirtless. A woman is seen wearing a low-cut top. A woman is seen straightening her stockings under her skirt. A woman wears a low-cut nightgown in various scenes. Two young boys are shown in a bathtub. Women are seen in mini-dresses where bare legs are shown.
 Two children see a married woman in bed with a man covered by blankets, and it is implied that they have spent the night together and have had sex.
 A man and a married woman flirt in a bar, the man touches the woman's hand, she rubs the man's face and grabs his head and hair, they are shown sitting in a car together, she touches his face and hair, and the man states, "I'm your ugly lover," and "There is no way I will do it in a car!" (referring to sex). A husband rubs his wife's bare thigh on a train.
 A man makes reference to "The thing with the babysitter" (referring to sex) and he speaks of his bare buttocks (using a crude term) and uses a crude term referring to sexual intercourse. A mother says out loud, "I often wondered what he was like in bed," referring to her son. A wife jokes with her husband saying, "With the kids here, we'll have no more sex." A husband asks his wife if she's had sex with his brothers. A woman talks about a man wanting sex from her in the past. A woman talks about having feelings for three different men. A woman talks about a man making a "pass" at her. A woman asks a man if he loves her (she is married to a different man). A man says, "I like my women very young." A man sings to himself, referencing "orifices" and his buttocks (using a crude term). A man talks to another man about breasts and buttocks (using crude terminology). A man calls two women a derogatory term for vagina. A woman talks about her buttocks, stating, "I have a fat derriere." A man makes a reference to circumcision, stating, "Holy foreskin day."
 A woman admires another woman's buttocks using a crude term. A husband and a wife lie in bed together (they are married to one another).


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VIOLENCE/GORE 5 - A doctor takes a bone marrow sample by aspirating a woman's breastbone with a metal, clamp-like syringe (we hear a noise, we see the woman cringe, but we do not see the needle go in). A man is shown being prepared for a surgical procedure, with tubes in his arms, we see surgeons push and twist two large metal, clamp-like prongs into the man's lower back (we see them pierce the skin), two large syringes are screwed onto these metal devices and a bloody liquid fills both vials (it is bone marrow); a plastic bag with the bone marrow is weighted it on a scale.
 A teenage boy with a knife is seen threatening a man, the man grabs the boy by the wrist, the knife falls, and he pushes him against a wall; the boy runs out onto a balcony and it appears as if he's attempting to jump, and two adults stop him. A man punches another man in the face (he falls to the floor), and the man kicks the other man in the back and chest and they yell (we see one man with a bloody nose). A man slaps another man in the face.
 A woman is seen in a hospital room being prepped for surgery: she has a small tube sticking out of her chest from under her shirt. A man wakes up in a hospital bed, and he rips tubes out of his arms, and monitoring pads off his chest. A teenage boy is seen lying in an ambulance on a stretcher; he is pale but conscious.
 A sequence using animation tells the story of a family and a young boy's illness and death: a boy is born and at six years old is diagnosed with Burkitt's Lymphoma, and a needle is seen piercing through a uterus and into amniotic fluid.
 A teenage boy is seen in a hospital bed (it is later discussed that it is a psychiatric unit). A young boy takes medications including "Haldol" for his emotional and psychiatric problems. Various bottles of pills are shown on a teenage boy's nightstand. A woman has a list of young man's psychiatric medications. A teenage boy sees a wolf inside a home (it is insinuated that he is hallucinating).
 A man walks down the street and appears intoxicated, he stops on a curb, falls forward, flat on his face, his legs shake slightly as he lays there, and people help him up and he appears unharmed. A woman drops a tray, leans against a wall, she is out of breath and slides down into a seated position, and she tells a man, "I fell." A man gives a toast at a dinner, uses profanity and falls when he goes to sit back down (the chair breaks from under him, but we do not see him hit the ground).
 A man talks to a teenage boy about "a breakdown." A woman tells a man that after Christmas her son will "go back to an institution." A woman cries in a therapy session, and she tells a psychotherapist, "I'm sterile. I'm seething with anger. I even hate you. There's no end in sight. Whose death am I mourning? It's as if someone died and I don't know who." A man yells at his father. A brother yells at his sister. A man blames a woman for his son's leukemia. A woman talks about another woman playing "Russian Roulette" with her life, and she talks about the woman putting a gun against her forehead. A woman talks about her "bones breaking like glass." A woman talks about a man "laughing at having killed her." A woman talks about her brother laughing at their mother's funeral. In a children's play young boys say, "Your ears would bleed." A man stands in a graveyard and proclaims, "My son is dead." A young boy asks, "Will I die?" Two small boys talk about car crashes and death with their grandfather. Young boys mention torture. A man jokes with a woman about eating a newborn baby. A woman jokes with a man about drinking blood. Family members talk about their deceased brother. A man talks about his wife being killed in a car accident. A man talks about no longer mourning his son. A woman says about her brother, "He's like the devil." A woman talks about her child saying, "From the day he was born, all he did was die." A woman talks about another woman not liking Christians. A woman calls a man "a little Jew," and the man replies, "Keep your lingering anti-Semitism." A man jokingly tells a woman, "Cheat on me and you'll die!" A man calls a boy a "wacko." Boys state, "I slept with a nanny goat." A man asks a woman, "Why do you hate your brother?" A man tells two boys, "Jesus never existed!"
 A woman talks to a doctor, her husband, and various family members about her disease and various people discuss these topics throughout the film: bone marrow, transplants, dying from a bone marrow transplant, donors, donor compatibility, a condition called GVH, leukemia, percentages/statistics relating to dying from a bone marrow transplant, percentages of dying without a transplant, chances of survival with cancer, placental blood, haplo-transplant (the Doctor states, "it's very violent"), infections, blood tests, cancer, burning alive from a bone marrow transplant, inflammation, Lyell's Syndrome, asphyxiation, burn units, giving blood, blood being taken, getting injections, scars.
 A teenage boy opens a drawer, pulls out a knife, holds it and breaks open a lock on a drawer. Children pretend to cut off an arm (it is a doll's arm).
 A woman is seen shoving tissues up a man's bloody nose. A man spits while brushing his teeth.


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LANGUAGE 5 - 2 F-words, 14 sexual references, 9 scatological terms, 10 anatomical terms, 12 mild obscenities name-calling (crook, twisted, evil, lazy, alcoholic, creep, idiots, basket case, wacko, psycho), 1 religious exclamation.


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SUBSTANCE USE - A man takes a teenage boy's prescription drug (Haldol) with alcohol and two men carry him and put him in bed after he passes out, a young boy takes medications including "Haldol" for his emotional and psychiatric problems, a woman has a list of young man's psychiatric medications, various bottles of pills are shown on a teenage boy's nightstand. People drink alcohol throughout the entire film, a man holds up alcohol and cigarettes and offers them to a teenage boy, a man walks down a street, drinks from a bottle, appears intoxicated and falls, a man tells another man to slow down as he drinks wine and the man replies, "Sober for Christmas?" A man tells a doctor that he drinks too much, a man yells out "I need to drink!" and a teenage boy carries a case of wine. People smoke cigarettes throughout the entire film, and a man is told by a doctor that he has a nodule on his lung (we see the X-ray) and that he smokes too much. A man talks about giving up drugs.


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DISCUSSION TOPICS - Dysfunctional families, cancer, bone marrow transplants, donating bone marrow, leukemia, Christianity, Christmas, alcohol and drug abuse, infidelity, psychiatric problems, teenage depression, love triangles, brother and sister relationships, sibling rivalry.

MESSAGE - In the midst of chaos and despair, there is a small amount of joy to be had at Christmastime.

CAVEATS

Be aware that while we do our best to avoid spoilers it is impossible to disguise all details and some may reveal crucial plot elements.

We've gone through several editorial changes since we started covering films in 1992 and older reviews are not as complete & accurate as recent ones; we plan to revisit and correct older reviews as resources and time permits.

Our ratings and reviews are based on the theatrically-released versions of films; on video there are often Unrated, Special, Director's Cut or Extended versions, (usually accurately labelled but sometimes mislabeled) released that contain additional content, which we did not review.


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