Joyeux Noël (Merry Christmas)

2006

Joyeux Noël (Merry Christmas)

Critics Consensus

The poignant humanity on display in Joyeux Noel makes its sentimentality forgivable.

74%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 111

89%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 45,801
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Movie Info

The year is 1914, and as World War I continues to rage across the European countryside, four individuals stuck on the front lines find themselves faced with the unthinkable in director Christian Carion's Academy Award-nominated account of the true-life wartime event that would offer hope for peace in mankind's darkest hour. When the war machines began rolling in the summer of 1914, the devastation that it waged upon German, British, and French troops was palpable. As the winter winds began to blow and the soldiers sat huddled in their trenches awaiting the generous Christmas care packages sent by the families, the sounds of warfare took a momentary backseat to the yearning for brotherhood among all of mankind. It is here that the fate of a French lieutenant, a Scottish priest, a German tenor, and a Danish soprano's lives were about to be changed forever. On Christmas Eve of that year, the lonely souls of the front lines abandoned their arms to reach out to their enemies on the battlefield and greet them with not anger or hostility, but with the simple, kindly gesture of a much needed cigarette or a treasured piece of chocolate, and to put their differences aside long enough to wish their brothers a sincere "Merry Christmas!" ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for Joyeux Noël (Merry Christmas)

All Critics (111) | Top Critics (39)

  • Unfolding slowly, then building in momentum like the hymns themselves, this entire sequence is tremendously affecting.

    Dec 14, 2014 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • It isn't exactly All Quiet on the Western Front or Oh! What a Lovely War. What it lacks is proper finesse.

    Dec 14, 2014 | Full Review…
  • The horror of the war, and the startling dignity of these mud-spattered soldiers, will doubtless thaw stony hearts. But the drama is as conventional as a ham sandwich.

    Dec 14, 2014 | Full Review…
  • You can't watch this film without thinking about modern wars and about how much easier it is to demonize a foe when language and customs are more at odds.

    Dec 14, 2014 | Full Review…

    Bob Mondello

    NPR
    Top Critic
  • For all their friendship and yuletide charity, the men must return to battle, and the miracle of Christmas does little to alter the course of war. By the end of it, they must decide if they've witnessed their own grand illusion.

    Dec 14, 2014 | Rating: A- | Full Review…
  • It is strongly and competently told, and the poignancy of warriors stricken by the sound of Stille Nacht floating across the trenches still has the power to move.

    Dec 9, 2013 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Joyeux Noël (Merry Christmas)

  • Jun 13, 2012
    Joyeux Noel is a great history lesson and a true example of peace among enemies. It may be a Christmas film, but there is much more spirit and truth in this than we usually see in a Christmas film.
    Bradley W Super Reviewer
  • Dec 29, 2011
    Very good. Completely different than most Christmas and war films.
    Erin C Super Reviewer
  • Dec 03, 2011
    It's one of the most amazing war stories ever told, and demonstrates the awe-inspiring power of Christmas. Joyeux Noel is an exceptional film that tells the true story of the spontaneous 1914 Christmas truce of World War I. The film does an exquisite job at bringing the characters to life, and at drawing the audience into story. Rarely has a film depicted the life of the World War I soldier and the complexity of war so well. Joyeux Noel is a loving tribute to the soldiers who found the Christmas spirit during the madness of war.
    Dann M Super Reviewer
  • Nov 25, 2010
    There aren't very many films about the First World War, and the likelihood of any being made is low now, with no veterans left to tell a story. However, the incident of the unofficial cease fire during December 1914 along one small section of the Western Front is well documented. French film director/writer Christian Carion put together a sentimental film that tells the simple story quite well. While not as good as classics like "All Quiet on the Western Front"; "Sergeant York"; or Stanley Kubrick's "Paths of Glory", Joyeux Noel still captures a brief footnote in history beautifully. The terrible conflict of World War One has left only a few blurred images behind in people's minds, except perhaps in France. This film, set at the beginning of the European conflict clearly shows the entr'acte of what was to become a bloody opera of death in the trenches in France. Carion casts his protagonists perfectly. They're human, not superheros. They are terrified, as the French lieutenant clearly shows in the very first scene. The story has a few surprises in it, and those not familiar with the history of the war will also find the attitudes of the soldiers to one another quite unusual. This conflict was started by treaties and egos amongst the ruling classes in Europe -- very different from the origins of the Second World War. The film shows the divide between the common soldier and their superiors, as the remnants of the old aristocracy drive them to war. It's also beautifully photographed, and also unusual because the narrative is in three languages. Despite their language difference, the three main characters all have very similar backgrounds. They were the first wave of men sent to the front: The idealistic and optimistic ones in the war to end all wars. That they managed to retain some semblance of brotherhood, even for a short time, is remarkable. The film is a little overly sweet, and perhaps it doesn't let the viewer understand that this situation is unusual: What came over the next four years of the war is pure horror. However, the movie is technically well done, and the dialogue is good, and seemed heartfelt. The acting by the multi-national cast is excellent. The characters are all sympathetic and interesting, and although the sub-stories about propaganda might seem heavy-handed, it's not much different from today. It gives you some understanding of the period, and how the young people are manipulated into believing in the righteousness of their cause, or the evil of their enemies. This kind of manipulation Hitler must have understood,(he served in World War I) and used to horrific effect a generation later. It's not a cheerful film, or a big, sweeping one, but it shows the true meaning of brotherhood and goodwill in a way that many foolish Christmas romantic comedies cannot.
    Mark K Super Reviewer

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