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Review: Will there be snow at Christmas? (1996)

Director: Sandrine Veysset | 90 minutes | drama | Actors: Dominique Reymond, Daniel Duval, Jessica Martinez, Alexandre Roger, Xavier Colonna, Fanny Rochetin, Flavie Chimènes, Jérémy Chaix, Guillaume Mathonnet, Eric Huyard, Loys Cappatti, Marcel Guilloux-Delaunay, Jeanne Noto, Julie Peysson, Annette Pradier, Babeth Roger, Andrée Toussaint, Andrée Veysset

“I don’t know what you do with those children, but they talk about you all the time.” When the teacher of the youngest of a mother’s seven children bumps into her in a supermarket, he can’t help but give her this compliment. Then he asks if she will also attend the tombola on Saturday, because “she can take a break, right?”. In a few comments, the best man describes the life of this hard-working farmer. The nameless woman takes herself to death on a draughty, poorly maintained farm somewhere in the south of France. She shares the care for her children with the eldest of the couple, the father – as we learn in the course of the film – has a family elsewhere, which is recognized.

Both women are aware of each other’s existence, and the infidelity of the woman-devouring man (even a very young holiday worker is eagerly looked at) is tolerated, but the woman on the farm is not really happy. Her children are exploited, have to do unacceptably hard work on the farm and there is no appreciation or (father) love. In fact, his father is killing the children and his mistress, is sickly jealous and is too tight-lipped to install decent electricity in the farm. The children also have to chop the wood for the stove themselves. Washing is done outside, in rainwater, and the family must also do the short and long errands in the open air.

Yaaura til de la neige à Noël slowly reveals her secrets. The strange situation in which the family finds itself is not immediately clear. The father of the seven children works on the farm, along with his legal sons, who are almost grown. They eat separately from the seven children and their mother and in the evening the three return to the city, where their wife and mother live and where all the money that the farm brings in goes. The next day this repeats itself. It quickly raises questions for the viewer. Why does this woman get stuck in these hopeless, miserable circumstances? Wouldn’t it be better to start a new life with the children somewhere else, far away from this nasty tyrannical man? “Y’aura t’il de la neige à Noël” shows very subtly how complex relationships can be. As easy as a solution may seem to an outsider, there is often a lot more going on than you can see. Judging is allowed, but that is not fair.

First-time director was not yet thirty when she delivered “Y’aura t’il de la neige à Noël?” In 1996. Before that she worked as a set designer for “Les amants du Pont-Neuf”. The French was already screened in cinemas in 1997 and will be re-released in 2015, after the digital restoration. It is certainly worth it, because “Y’aura t “il de la neige à Noël” is a beautiful, realistic portrayal of life in the French countryside. Anyone who has ever dreamed of an idyllic French farm will sometimes scratch their heads after seeing this film. Yet it is by no means a depressing film, because the mother’s attention, tenderness and dedication to her offspring predominates. That is captured in beautiful, intimate images, which also beautifully follow the seasons. With the help of an unparalleled actress (Dominique Reymond) and very natural acting children (all amateurs), Veysset has made a wonderful ode to the immovability of maternal love. Anyone who has not yet discovered this gem of French cinema would do well to put it on the watch list.

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