I am not a film distributor. I just go see the blasted things. But even I can see that the release of A Christmas Tale (the new Arnaud Desplechin movie) might have been a touch botched, with it coming out mid-January. But then I saw it, ALL 150 MINUTES OF IT, and its release date makes a little bit more sense. Because A Christmas Tale seems to exist to absolve you of hating your family over Christmas. It says that all families are dysfunctional, so its OK. Unfortunately it tries to prove this by creating a family with so many dysfunctions that you’d need a misuser’s guide just to make it not work.

It took me about two hours to work out exactly who was related to who, who was married to who and why they hated, loved, we cruel to, or having sex with each other. All the time it is perfectly entertaining, and keeps your attention, but you very rarely feel you are watching a piece of art which can be handily universalised into your experience. This family is fucked up because they fucked each other up. But mainly they are fucked up because they are written this way. There may be families like this out there (maybe all French families are this fucked up) but I doubt it. But at the same time its only comedic in a wry way, so the point of the film seems unclear. Sure there are interesting scenarios, some biting dialogue and some nice performances. But two and a half hours later (TWO AND A HALF HOURS LATER) you are left with an overwhelming sense of Why?

On the other hand it is always nice to see films which denote how different cultures approach relatively mundane aspects of life. The Christmas traditions on show do not deviate much from British ones (Papa Noel is mentioned but never invoked). However the French lack of safety when using fireworks is appalling and completely earns the films 15 certificate. YOU NEVER RETURN TO A LIT FIREWORK! And in not showing injuries being caused the film is almost certainly responsible for some future deaths. By firework or by numb bum. I told you it was 150 minutes long didn’t I?

Here is a much shorter alternative: The Carol Of The Christmas Pickle.