The Personal History of David Copperfield

BBFC PG Certificate

(2019) 119 mins

Director: Armando Iannucci
Writer: Simon Blackwell, from the novel by Charles Dickens
Cinematography: Zac Nicholson
Production Design: Cristina Casali
Music: Christopher Willis



Armando Iannucci takes us at breakneck speed through Dickens’s semi-autobiographical masterpiece.  We first meet David (a perfect Dev Patel) as an adult author standing at a lectern, preparing to read his autobiography to a rapt audience.  We are then whisked back to his birth and childhood, and we follow him as he negotiates extreme reversals of fortune, from virtual slavery in a bottle factory to successful writing career.  Along the way he interacts with a joyously colour-blind cast of characters including Tilda Swinton as his formidable aunt Betsey Trotwood, Peter Capaldi as Mr Micawber and  Ben Whishaw as the ‘orribly ‘umble Uriah Heep.

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“Though it is set visually in the streets of Victorian London, this film is as progressive today as Dickens was in his era; the multicultural metropolis it sketches out draws parallels with the current bustling capital and illuminates the contemporary resonance of poverty and homelessness. The Personal History of David Copperfield dives down into depression and depravity, and yet the human spirit ultimately triumphs, resulting in a surprisingly optimistic picture from the king of cynical satire.”  The Upcoming

“It has so much fun racing through characters and contexts — Iannucci’s handheld camera amps up the energy — that it occasionally feels rushed, perhaps inevitably given it’s cramming 600 pages into two hours. But for the most part, that speed works to the film’s advantage, complementing the jaunty tone with whirlwind storytelling that gives the gentle norms of the genre a welcome kick up the Pickwick.”  Empire

It really is a wonderfully entertaining film, managing to both respect and reinvent the novel from which it takes its lead, creating something new and exciting in the process.”  The Guardian

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