Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 9/10
Cast: Dan Stevens, Christopher Plummer, Jonathan Pryce, Simon Callow, Justin Edwards, Morfydd Clark, Miriam Margolyes, Ian McNeice, Donald Sumpter, Cosimo Fusco, Bill Paterson, Miles Jupp, Annette Badland, Anna Murphy, Ger Ryan, John Henshaw, Ely Solan.
The modern notions of how we celebrate Christmas has come to divide the way we view the period which should be about decency, fairness and that seemingly old fashioned notion of goodwill to all. Some see it as an excuse for excess, some wallow in the frenzy and find their time afterwards beset in debt and worry, others perhaps arguably more at peace with their lot, just surround themselves with a smile, a memory of a loved one no longer in their sights and the hands of a loved one still by their side.
Christmas is an invention, a harkening back to the dawn of a new way of thinking, or indeed one that has the idea of making merry and being kind, of just having one person holding a candle in your name and a stolen kiss beside a traditional welcome. Whichever way it goes, to raise a glass to Charles Dickens is one that should be assured, for without his vision for Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit and the Ghost of Christmas yet to come, we might have lost the time in which to feel kindness and hope, no matter how we like to see the day unfold.
The genius of the film lays in its insight into the brain of a writer, especially one such as Charles Dickens whose imagination was steeped in a constant flow of observation and performance. The craft, the lonely hours waiting for the right moment in which step out of the blank paper’s clutches and fill it with colour, examination and studious consideration; all in that vein hope of reflecting society in a mirror, these are the horrors that sit in wait for the writer and The Man Who Invented Christmas celebrates that with honour and more than a pinch of the terrifying reveal.
In a cast that makes the film an absolute delight, with a story that most of the population of the world would have at least been introduced to across many mediums, such is Dan Stevens portrayal as Charles Dickens, Jonathan Pryce as his good natured but fiscally reckless father and Christopher Plummer’s bleakness as the embodiment of Dicken’s intolerable miser Scrooge, that the film truly lifts the spirits as high as is possibly to go.
It is the journey in which the author takes, the life that an audience doesn’t see which sharpens the quill and gives life to the paper before them, a form of magic perhaps, the series of events that make books such as A Christmas Carol, Great Expectations, Bleak House and Oliver Twist such outstanding commentary on the human condition, a study in the mind of all that can be perceived as heroic and all that is base and spineless, gutless and driven by the want of money.
A tremendously enjoyable, sometimes dark film, a reflection of Charles Dickens own times at the hands of a mother who tried to keep him from a natural calling and the nightmares that crowded his mind, but one that gives the same sense of positivity in which A Christmas Carol captures with all its heart.
Ian D. Hall