Joyeux Noël is a mixed bag of a movie. Oh, it’s beautifully made — some of the images are quite stunning. Also, its central story of a makeshift, impromptu, unauthorized Christmas truce involving German, French, and Scottish soldiers in 1914 war torn Europe is intriguing and affecting. It’s the kind of anti-war movie that upsets no one by being set in the distant past — and taking of the fairy tale quality of a fable.
The fact that it’s “fact-based” lends it a certain legitimacy, too — as long as you don’t worry too much over how factual the facts are by the time they hit the screen. It is not a movie that invites that kind of scrutiny. It wants you to leave the theater thinking well of your fellow man — assuming your fellow man is just some poor shnook caught in a war he doesn’t understand, and not a higher-up. And if you allow it to — and there’s no good reason you oughtn’t — it will pretty much achieve that aim. If you question the reality or the melodramatic aspects of the plot or the strangely inconclusive nature of the fate of the opera singers, the whole thing evaporates. While it’s onscreen, however it mostly works. But there’s a price to be paid in the shape of a good — or not so good — 30 minutes or more of clunky, cliché-riddled set-up before getting to the movie’s real story. I’m not sure it was entirely avoidable, but goodness knows it could have been handled with more finesse. However, if you’re up for Diane Kruger dressed to the nines in a WWI trench — an image as compelling as it is ludicrous — this is the movie for you.
The Hendersonville Film Society will show Joyeux Noël Sunday, Nov. 16, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.