Director: Bharat Nalluri
Starring: Dan Stevens, Christopher Plummer, Jonathan Pryce and Justin Edwards
Release Date: 1 Dec
You’ve most likely read the book before, or at least seen the film adaptations, particularly one filled with Muppets. But have you ever thought about the process in which Charles Dickens went into creating one of the best known stories in the world, ‘A Christmas Carol’?
Probably not. I know I never have, but The Man Who Invented Christmas is quite a unique take on the magical and, at times, frustrating journey that led to the character Scrooge being created and the book being written.
Based on the book of the same name, the story seems to be a rather loose but sweet retelling of the life of Charles Dickens and how he came about the story. Set in 1843 (at least two months before Christmas), Charles Dickens (Stevens) is shown at his home in London after a brief stint in America, very glad to be back.
He seems to be a man full of happiness and hope, but has yet to write anything meaningful. His last pieces of work have been poorly received and he seems to be slowly running out of money… and yet, he still remains full of hope. He goes to his publishers with the possibility of payment of some kind which doesn’t happen until he suggests that he’s writing a new book and would like money in advance.
This new book is ‘A Christmas Carol’, though at the start, he has no idea how it will go. They laugh off the suggestion that anyone would ever want to read a book based on Christmas, it obviously not being so culturally important before consumerist ideals have sunk their claws into the holiday at this point. Yet Dickens has seen how the warm notions infuse the winter months over in America and felt it could gradually make its way to England.
I found this film to be a pure delight from near start to finish. It does fall flat in some places. Some of the children are not as endearing as they really should be, and there are times when it seems a little bit too far-fetched. That said, The Man Who Invented Christmas is, at its core, a truly heart warming and pleasant film to watch.
Dan Steven oozes charisma, conveyed through his facial expressions and crazed thoughts. The production design is also quite beautiful, immersing the audience in an enchanted variation of London town in the mid 1800’s. Hats off to the director for adding sly nods towards Dickens’ other work such as ‘David Copperfield’ and ‘Oliver Twist’.
The life Dickens is living while trying to write ‘A Christmas Carol’ mirrors the story in terms of structure and tone. Dickens is reflecting on his past; the days where he had to go work in a old factory because of his father and the memories that haunt him. Despite this, his present constantly intrudes. In trying to write the book and develop his characters, he is also tasked with balancing the pressures of his familial and social life.
Finally, his future is as foreboding as the Ghost of Christmas Future; not knowing if he will get the book finished in time and what will happen to him and his family if he doesn’t.
The cast is a well assembled one, with Dan Stevens taking the forefront as the frantic, charismatic and occasionally crazed Charles Dickens. With a vivid imagination, he brings his characters to life, including Tiny Tim and Bob Cratchit. A standout, however, is Scrooge, (Plummer) who mocks Dickens as he struggles with writers block and other hurdles in his life. There are even times when you can see the character of Scrooge slowly taking over Dickens’ mental presence, affecting how he behaves around family and friends.
Keeping him anchored is his loyal friend and adviser, John Forster (Edwards). Forster is a gentle giant, clearly at odds with Dickens frantic behaviour and a good foil for his character. Topping it all off is Dickens’ father (Pryce) who lives each day to its fullest and at his happiest, ironically irking Charles as the story progresses. The magical element of the film is, to a certain degree, supplied by his world-view.
All in all The Man Who Invented Christmas is a joyful take on an already well-known story. And while it doesn’t feature any Muppets, it is nonetheless a very easy watch.
Written by Graeme Redmond