Joyeux Noël

Rated NR 2006

A moving and exceptionally well-crafted film from French writer-director Christian Carion, Joyeux Noël is based on the real-life Christmas Eve truce on the front lines of WWI. It opens in 1914, on the eve of war, and deftly characterizes its key players. There is Sprink (Benno Furmann), a German opera singer called into service despite his colossal fame; William (Robin Laing) and Jonathan (Steven Robertson), a pair of young Scottish brothers; Palmer (Gary Lewis), their parish priest, who follows the boys into the trenches; and, in the French camp, the buttoned-up Lieutenant Audebert (Guillaume Canet), who hides his personal grief, and Ponchel (Danny Boon), the aide-de-camp whose farmhouse is mere kilometers from the front -- but behind German lines. The film is not innovative in its portrayal of trench warfare, but except for a few missteps, it is so beautifully and sensitively rendered in its particulars, in its characterizations of soldiers and officers, and its dramatization of a nearly miraculous event, that the result is an affecting piece of cinema.

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