top of page
  • Writer's pictureS.J.

'The Personal History Of David Copperfield' Review: Dev Patel Stars In Armando Iannucci's Dramedy

Dev Patel smiling in a suit
Searchlight Pictures

Delightful time, innit? You know, sometimes it’s just so nice to sit down for a movie and be glad to be charmed by its energy. The Personal History Of David Copperfield is the newest adaptation of Charles Dickens’ novel from the 1850’s, this time being helmed by director and co-writer Armando Iannucci who’s mostly known for black or satirical comedies, and it indeed charms you. There’s clearly a pep in its step, eye for the modern tricks of filmmaking to be used at right moments and nice balance to the huge cast it requires. It definitely doesn’t reinvent the wheel of British comedy or costume dramas but there’s no need for it when it’s simply fun, good-looking and (extremely) fast-paced.

Fast pacing is the result of multiple ingredients; snappy dialogue, lack of traditional transitions, hard cutting and big time jumps between the ”chapters” all have an impact. I literally can’t remember a film right now that moves faster than ”Copperfield” and that is pretty much the exact reason why it was so refreshing. Things just happen so quickly that you might not even notice that there’s a lot of handsome filmmaking going on, as for example the production design is smartly going along with the script. There are near fourth wall breaks when film projecting to a wall is used or they are using the same set to merge two time periods (older and younger David meeting). I imagine this to be in Oscar conversation when it comes to technical categories since costuming, make-up & hair and cinematography go hand in hand.

Who are the people since they haven’t been mentioned yet? The movie hits its marks when it comes to casting and later on taking that cast to very showy roles. Dev Patel (as titular David) carries the film in solid fashion but he also gets backing from recognisable supporting actors. Hugh Laurie (Mr. Dick) is as great as he’s ever been, Peter Capaldi (Mr. Micawber) is hilarious once again and Rosalind Eleazar (Agnes) perfectly counters Patel’s vibe. The humour that is brought to life by the cast is the key element here; delightful is the word I started with because it’s the best description for it all.

Cast being so good is also the reason why you don’t get stuck to the mismatching of ethnic backgrounds (like one father-daughter duo). What you might get stuck on is some lesser characters like Steerforth (played by Aneurin Barnard) who don’t gel with the film’s tone. The tone itself also struggles when trying to deal with some heavy dramatic beats.

Smileys: Production design, pacing, humour

Frowneys: Minor issues with tone

Nothing to fuss about in five years but bloody good time, ya know.


After Misery's logo with the text ''all things film & television'' underneath it.
bottom of page