The Personal History Of David Copperfield review

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Armando Iannucci brings a new take on David Copperfield to the screen, with Dev Patel in the lead – and here’s our review.

David Copperfield was Charles Dickens’ eighth novel and this adaption is apparently the 14th take on the source text that’s made it to film or TV. However, it’s never been done quite like this before. With Armando Iannucci at the helm, whose last film to hit the big screen was The Death Of Stalin – a riotous and scathing farce that dissected the nature of power in a painfully timely manner – this simultaneously feels like a strange yet perfect follow-up.

First published as a serial in 1849 with the original full title, The Personal History, Adventures, Experience And Observation Of David Copperfield The Younger Of Blunderstone Rookery (Which He Never Meant To Publish On Any Account), the story is the retrospective account of one man’s journey thorough life. He lives a life which shifts from having everything to nothing several times and is littered with all sorts of friends and acquaintances along the way. And, as with many of Dickens’ works, there’s a degree of autobiography littered amongst it.

Not that you actually need to know any of that going into the film. For Simon Blackwell’s screenplay, with Iannucci himself also credited, is a beautiful thing. It’s accessible, sad, supremely funny and timeless. It’s the kind of film that makes your face ache as, without you even realising it, you’ve been smiling a Cheshire Cat-esque grin throughout. It feels faithful to the heart of the original text, an authentic adaptation whilst also feeling immensely fresh and modern.

What really makes it spark as brightly as it does is the cast who weave those words into gold. The ensemble gathered for this outing is just wonderful, a roll call of some of the finest talents Britain has to offer. But it’s Dev Patel, as David Copperfield himself, who is the film’s centre. He anchors the film with a brilliantly comedic and charming performance. He epitomises the film’s uniquely winning tone, able to instantaneously shift from melodramatic to madcap without inducing whiplash. A fast-paced comedic romp that is packed full of magic and makes for a truly satisfying watch.

The Personal History Of David Copperfield may be snubbed by many awards bodies, but don’t make the same mistake.


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