One thing Night & Day will remember 2008’s movies for is the year the French got themselves back on track. France’s once-great film culture looked to have gone stale, but this year they gave us the breathtaking thriller Tell No One, the wrenching drama I’ve Loved You So Long, the forthcoming inspirational-teacher movie The Class, and the acute lesbian coming-of-age film Water Lilies. One of the best of this crop is A Christmas Tale, showing at the Modern on this last weekend of the year.

Not to be confused with A Christmas Story (nobody lusts after a BB gun), the film stars Catherine Deneuve as the matriarch of a family whose three adult children return home for the holidays to visit and test themselves for a bone marrow transplant for their mother. This sprawling work outdoes other holiday-reunion pictures with its sharp observances of family relationships – watch the eldest daughter (Anne Consigny) stew in resentment while her exiled screw-up of a younger brother (Mathieu Amalric, the Quantum of Solace villain who’s terrific here) appears to swoop in and save their mother’s life. This 153-minute small-scale epic is the brainchild of director/co-writer Arnaud Desplechin, a massive emerging talent who’s just as comfortable hanging out with the elders at home as he is following the younger family members to a nightclub. What a nice Christmas present for us.

A Christmas Tale runs Fri-Sun at Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 3200 Darnell St, FW. Tickets are $5.50-7.50. Call 817-738-9215.

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