The world feels a tad dark and dreary lately, doesn’t it? Blame it on a global pandemic, blame it on social injustice, or you can blame it on it being an election year, but living has an unpleasant heaviness to it. Sitting down for a good movie feels like the perfect medicine for this bad case of the dreadfuls and audiences should look no further than The Personal History of David Copperfield. In these troubling times, The Personal History of David Copperfield is a lilting, energetic story that shines like a beacon through darkness.
The Personal History of David Copperfield is a fresh and fun adaptation of Charles Dickens’ famous novel, David Copperfield, directed by Armando Iannucci. The film boasts one of the most perfectly gathered ensembles a film lover could dream up, featuring Peter Capaldi, Gwendoline Christie, Morfydd Clark, Hugh Laurie, Tilda Swinton, Daisy May Cooper, Rosalind Eleazar, and the one and only Dev Patel, who is absolutely darling as the titular David Copperfield.
The great tragedy of Dickens, Shakespeare, and Austen is that their immortal stories of triumph, love, and miraculous circumstance are trapped within such stuff time periods. Previous adaptations of Charles Dickens feel out of reach and overly buttoned-up as they attempt to remain true to the original setting and time. Where those adaptations flounder, The Personal History of David Copperfield dances!
A word to describe The Personal History of David Copperfield is jaunty. The film vibrates with infectious energy and bounces along at an exciting pace, sweeping the viewer up. The current interpretations of these storied characters are vibrant and vivacious and genuinely funny. The colorblind casting of the film can be described as modern, but there’s another word I’d use for it — perfect. Each role is played to glorious effect, to the degree that my favorite character and performance have switched six…now seven, times since beginning this review.
To individually account every triumph of the ensemble would be to take this from film review to cinematic dissertation, but I will linger for a moment on the magnetic Dev Patel. Dev Patel is having a very big moment in literary adaptations, between David Copperfield and the much anticipated A24 adaptation of the Arthurian legend of The Green Knight. To this role, Patel brings a warm and infectious optimism. He plays youthful exuberance just as smoothly as he does hardened resolve, and often does both remarkably well at the same time. Dev Patel is a darling as Copperfield and a darling to this critic.
Aesthetically, The Personal History of David Copperfield is a vivacious escape. Gorgeous set pieces and rich costuming, all encompassed by a vibrant color palette. It’s beautiful to look at and every frame shines with the same optimistic inner light. There’s a great deal of joy that this film exudes, despite the fact that much of the narrative is spent in uncertainty and hardship. That’s the beauty of the film. To be in unfortunate circumstances and to still be relentlessly beautiful and warming is the ultimate sign of hope. Where there is darkness, light will eventually shine. The Personal History of David Copperfield is the perfect film for the current moment because it is the ultimate story of hope.
The Personal History of David Copperfield is busting at the seams with charm. The film unfolds like the most beautiful and genuine smile — it begins slight and mirthful and gradually broadens into something welcoming and warming. An absolute joy in every possible sense. Please exercise caution when electing to see a film in the theater. Please be mindful of current COVID-19 case numbers in your area and of individual theater policies. Love film and stay safe.
The Personal History of David Copperfield will be available in select theaters now.
The Personal History of David Copperfield
The Personal History of David Copperfield is busting at the seams with charm. The film unfolds like the most beautiful and genuine smile — it begins slight and mirthful and gradually broadens into something welcoming and warming. An absolute joy in every possible sense.
Caitlin is a sweater enthusiast, film critic, and lean, mean writing machine based in Austin, TX. Her love of film began with being shown Rosemary’s Baby at a particularly impressionable age and she’s been hooked ever since. She loves a good bourbon and hates people who talk in movies. Caitlin has been writing since 2014 and you can find her work on Film Inquiry, The Financial Diet, Nightmarish Conjurings, and many others.