A ripping yarn and a grand adventure, The Personal History of David Copperfield delights.
It highlights just how magnificent a writer Charles Dickens was – the script having been penned by Armando Iannucci and Simon Blackwell, with direction coming from the former.
The movie re-imagines Dickens’ classic ode to grit and perseverance through a largely comedic lens.
We hear Copperfield narrating his life story, which opens in Victorian England – inside the Rookery housing slums.
That is where he is born to young widow Clara (Morfydd Clark), with the help of well-meaning, but flummoxed housekeeper, Peggotty (Daisy May Cooper).
Also in attendance is David’s eccentric aunt, Betsey Trotwood (Tilda Swinton), who was sure David was going to be a girl.
David’s early years are happy and peaceful as he spends time with Peggotty’s family in Yarmouth in their unusual home – an upturned boat situated on the beach.
That is where he lives out idyllic summers with Peggotty’s brother Daniel (Paul Whitehouse) and his adopted children, Ham (Anthony Walsh) and Emily (Aimée Kelly).
But all that changes when – upon his return – David discovers that his mother has married Edward Murdstone (Darren Boyd), a cruel man with an equally fearsome sister, Jane (Gwendoline Christie).
Many more highs and lows follow.
We see David banished to work at a bottling factory, living with a poverty-stricken family, before escaping to stay with his aunt and colourful distant cousin … and much more besides.
It reads like tall tales but true from the legendary past and Dev Patel, and two other younger iterations of Copperfield, as portrayed by Jairaj Varsani and Ranveer Jaiswal, make for a charming centrepiece.
There’s no doubt that it is the diversity of adventures and escapades that make this screenplay stand out, not to overlook Copperfield’s resilience.
There is so much to enjoy about the characterisations, foremost amongst them Tilda Swinton as the dotty aunt and Hugh Laurie as her colourful distant cousin Mr Dick.
The filmmakers have woven an exquisite fantasy, where we – as audience members – are constantly waiting for the next chapter.
In other words, The Personal History of David Copperfield is the equivalent of a page turner.
You can readily lose yourself in the mayhem and madness, which is just what I did.
I found the two hours passed very quickly, which is a good sign that I was enjoying myself.
Rated PG, The Personal History of David Copperfield scores an 8 out of 10.