Film review: The Personal History of David Copperfield

Charles Dickens’s semi-autobiographical David Copperfield is brought to life by Armando Iannucci for a contemporary and cosmopolitan audience.

The Personal History of David Copperfield is a funny, fun-loving, family favourite and is sure to be a hit.

The cast is wonderfully diverse, and as Maya Angelou said: “Diversity makes for a rich tapestry.” It certainly does in this movie.

It reminded me at times of watching a Coldplay video. There was an undertone of melancholy below the optimistic and life affirming feel to the movie. It’s full of colour, energy and dreamlike as reality merges in Copperfield’s mind with the story he is creating.

Following Copperfield (the ever-brilliant Dev Patel) as he narrates his own life story from birth through to adulthood, in his search for happiness, his voice as a writer and ultimately love.

You see the character develop as he falls in love with language and people. He picks up on different accents and mannerisms and builds characters from the remarkable set of people he meets in Victorian England.

This happens first from his loving housekeeper Peggotty (Daisy May Cooper), then when his mother remarries the strict (Victorian strict) Murdstone (Darren Boyd) and his overbearing sister Jane (Gwendoline Christie).

Through a series of ups and downs and meeting poverty-stricken Mr Micawber (Peter Capaldi) on the streets in London, Copperfield ends up at his quirky aunt’s house, Betsey Trotwood (Tilda Swinton), with the even quirkier Mr Dick (the multitalented Hugh Laurie,  who form a strong bond over their shared obsession with words.

Of course there is the creepy and deceitful Uriah Heep, who is played so brilliantly by Ben Whishaw that you can almost feel him breathing down your own neck.

The two romantic love interests of David are the one he thinks he loves, or should love, Dora (Morfydd Clark), accompanied by her dog, and the woman who really loves him, and who he really loves but almost misses despite it staring him straight in the face, the beautiful Agnes (Rosalind

Eleazar); who is the daughter of wine loving Mr Wickfield (Benedict Wong).

Despite the overall positive outlook of the film, the tragedies and sadness of the novel have not been left out.

Poverty and homelessness are still themes. The issues are displayed as they were in the 1840s, but also made relevant to the same issues still facing our society today.

Iannucci, whose previous work includes TV shows The Thick Of It and I’m Alan Partridge as well as movies In the Loop and The Death of Stalin has kept the essence of Dickens’s novel while making it recognisable and relatable to the audiences of today, in an extremely fun-loving and richly entertaining movie.

*The Personal History of David Copperfield will be released in cinemas on Friday, January 24.

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