The Personal History of David Copperfield

Published in book form in 1850, ‘David Copperfield’ by Charles Dickens is a perennial mainstay. Filmed for cinema and TV numerous times, each have had their own take on the timeless story. ‘The Personal History of David Copperfield’ provides a consistently charming version. Under Armando Iannucci’s skilful direction, ‘Copperfield’ shows how you can successfully reinvent a 19th century story for 21st century eyes.

Living with his widowed mother and wicked step-father, David Copperfield (Dev Patel) dreams of better things. Sent to work at his step-father’s factory, he lodges with the kindly Mr. Micawber (Peter Capaldi) and his family. Desperate to escape his grey existence, he tracks down his wealthy aunt Betsey (Tilda Swinton) and her lodger Mr. Dick (Hugh Laurie). His life takes unexpected turns as he pushes ahead with his ambitions to be a gentleman and author.

‘The Personal History of David Copperfield’ is a very entertaining reimagining of the classic story. Those versed in Dickens would likely know the plot inside out but the film is also accessible for newer viewers. This is mainly due to the energetic and enthusiastic performances of its cast. All perfectly embody their roles and perfectly render Dickens’ prose with style.

This style also extends to Iannucci’s handling of the material. ‘Copperfield’ greatly benefits from his visual flair as it pushes the plot along at a cracking pace. This isn’t a standard ‘talk and shoot’ adaptation, but an often exciting and engaging tale all can enjoy. The set design also adds immeasurably to the glossy spectacle without overwhelming the heart of the piece.

If you’re unsure of which ‘Copperfield’ film to see, then ‘The Personal History of David Copperfield’ should be high on the list. Far from being an academic, dry exercise, it does justice to Dickens’ prose. More films done in this style should find new audiences for similar classic works proving well written stories can never go out of fashion.

Rating out of 10: 8


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