Directed by Christian Carion, starring Benno Fürmann, Guillaume Canet, Diane Kruger, Gary Lewis, Daniel Brühl, Alex Ferns and Dany Boon.
The Christmas ceasefire on the Western Front in 1914, where British, French and German soldiers put down their weapons, exchanged gifts and played football, is an event whose power and poignancy has grown with every year since "The War to End All Wars". Any director approaching it runs the risk of being labelled a crass opportunist or creating a film which would be best served on a cheeseboard. Writer-director Carion, however, gets it right, with 'Merry Christmas' reminding you of just how spoiled we've all become and how much we have to be thankful for.
Filmed in three languages, Carion focuses on the various soldiers facing each other across 100 metres of waste ground, including a French officer (Canet) who doesn't know the fate of his pregnant wife; a German soldier (Fürmann) who is an opera singer in the real world; his Jewish officer ('Goodbye Lenin's Daniel Brühl) whose wife is French and a Scottish chaplain (Lewis) whose faith shakes the longer he stays in the trenches with a stoical captain (Ferns). Carols sung by the German soldiers lead to the Scots replying with bagpipes and the French joining in. No-man's land becomes a safe haven, with the troops from each side unable to resume 'normal' hostilities afterwards.
While the character development here could have been better, it's the bigger picture that Carion is trying to convey and his film doesn't deal with heroes or villains, just men. Juggling three different groups of protagonists without making one more sympathetic than the other two is no mean feat, yet Carion ensures that his film is even-handed enough that you feel for everyone. In between the sadness there's warmth and humour but the overwhelming feeling you're left with by the close is – as if you were in any doubt - the futility of it all and that despite all the advances in the 90 odd years since, humanity has failed to learn the most important lessons of all.
In another 90 years the world will still be wondering why.