03rd Feb2020

‘The Personal History of David Copperfield’ Review

by Alex Ginnelly

Stars: Dev Patel, Hugh Laurie, Tilda Swinton, Peter Capaldi, Gwendoline Christie, Paul Whitehouse, Benedict Wong, Ben Whishaw, Daisy May Cooper | Written by Simon Blackwell | Directed by Armando Iannucci


A wonderfully witty and heart warming tale. It’s the kind of feel good cinema that can touch anyone’s heart, pure joy wrapped up in a string of delightful performances.

The world of Dickens for me has always been one of dark and terrible times. My first introduction was surely a version of A Christmas Carol when I was young, but it was in high school reading Great Expectations that I got my first true taste of Dickens. It was only the first few chapters that I remember so clearly and for some unknown reason I couldn’t get the first chapter out of my head. I still have the image of a gothic cemetery etched into my brain. As a young boy I imagined it as the most terrifying graveyard in existence. So from that point on every time I heard the name Dickens I thought of the gothic horror of that graveyard. When I thought of A Christmas Carol, I thought of the ghosts as terrifying creatures. When I thought of Oliver Twist, I thought of the terrifying work house. And for some unknown reason that thought never left me.

It was such a delight then when I sat down and saw The Personal History of David Copperfield. As I sat there laughing at wonderfully colourful characters, I started to remember just how memorable a Dickens’ character is. These characters were so wonderfully charming, each in their own way, and so magnificently played by a truly colour blind cast, that I was swept away into David Copperfield’s world.

The 8th novel by Dickens, and the one that’s often stated as his best, follows the life of David Copperfield, from his birth right through to his adulthood. The journey Copperfield takes reminded me of the wonderful journey in It’s a Wonderful Life, every character he meets having an impact and how one man can effect so many. It’s within Dev Patel’s wonderfully playful performances that the film shines brightest. There’s a sense of slapstick to his performances, as if his limbs where separate to his body and every part of him has a mind of its own. He’s joined by a fabulous cast, one that should be awarded with an ensemble Oscar (if the Oscars did such an award). The cast is diverse in every sense of the word, with colour blind casting at its very best. There never comes a moment where you question the casting decisions, every single role is perfectly played. Stands outs include Peter Capaldi, Hugh Laurie, Tilda Swinton and Daisy May Cooper.

The joy and warmth of The Personal History of David Copperfield becomes all you want to be wrapped up in. It’s a film you wish you could watch again and again, one with a world and characters you want to revisit. It’s everything you want to make you feel good about the world again.

**** 4/5

The Personal History of David Copperfield is in cinemas now.


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