Published Nov 27, 2008This is a movie that goes so very right that it constantly reminds you of how it could have gone so completely wrong.
Loosely fit into the "family crisis in holiday season genre, it gives us a gravely ill matriarch (Catherine Deneuve) in need of a bone marrow transplant. The only available donors are her smart mouthed, black sheep son (Matheiu Almaric) and the unhappy nephew of the daughter (Anne Consigny) who cast out the other donor. Almaric wants to punish his mother by lording over his newfound power; his younger counterpart seems disturbed at having a chance to seem important snatched from him.
A constellation of siblings, girlfriends and relatives swirl around this, negotiating the central feud and revealing the pockets of angst outside of its orbit, with many secrets revealed and many bad assumptions becoming debunked.
You keep waiting for the prime directive of "family is important but director Arnaud Desplechin is way ahead of that curve; he knows that a family is a constellation of individuals who want to be connected as much as they want to be themselves.
In striking that balance between selfish desire and stifling obligation, Desplechin shows why hes become the darling of the eggheads; hes at once deeply committed to a detailed mapping of human behaviour while flamboyantly dedicated to the hilarious acting out of bitter weirdoes.
People have been comparing it unfavourably to his breakthrough, Kings and Queen, but I like this better. Where that film seemed slightly arbitrary, this has thesis enough to prove a point and bravery enough to stray from it when necessary. At 150 minutes, its pretty long but I didnt notice and neither will you. (Seville)