Review: The Personal History of David Copperfield @ HOME

Armando Iannucci follows up his 2017 comedy The Death of Stalin with a charming and humorous take on the classic Dickensian tale.

By Manchester's Finest | 20 January 2020

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It was only when I saw that Armando Iannucci – the Glaswegian director born to Italian parents best known for his political comedy The Thick of It – was to direct this picture that I began to get excited about it.

Iannucci is known for his quick-witted, satirical writing, and after successfully transitioning from TV to film with The Death of Stalin – which satirised the Soviet Union – it was always going to be interesting seeing how he adapted a literary classic.

The end result is something that doesn’t quite reach the black-comedy heights of The Death of Stalin or the foul-mouthed tirades of Malcom Tucker, but is instead something much more heartwarming and whimsical. That’s not to say it doesn’t have any laughs, there are plenty; but it does feel like a slightly more serious film than Iannucci’s previous work, perhaps sacrificing a few humour points for more serious emotion.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it’s a near perfect retelling of Charles Dickens’ original novel for a modern audience. (Who reads nowadays, anyway…?)

The themes of anxiety about fitting in and social class couldn’t be more relevant. David Copperfield, like many of Dickens’ protagonists, are eternally relatable. What Iannucci does is what all good adaptations should do: pay respect to the original whilst sprinkling in your own touch. Which, in Iannucci’s case, is his signature humour.

The casting is phenomenal, and is perhaps the film’s greatest strength. The star studded cast all put in top-draw performances. Dev Patel shines in the titular role whilst Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie (who took home Best Supporting Actor at the British Independent Film Awards) and Peter Capaldi all deliver strong, quirky characters that bring plenty of laughs.

The film has since been nominated for Best Casting for the upcoming BAFTA Awards, the equivalent award of which it won at the British Independent Film Awards back in December along with Best Screenplay.

The Personal History of David Copperfield hits UK cinema on Friday 24th January. Click below for tickets…

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