LFF 2019: The Personal History Of David Copperfield – Review

Release date – 24th January 2020, Run-time – 1 hour 59 minutes,
Cert – PG, Director – Armando Iannucci

David Copperfield (Dev Patel) recounts his life from the poverty and rags of childhood to the struggles of adulthood.

Over the past few years Armando Iannucci has made a name for himself through his often biting satires. Rising from his days as a writer on the Alan Partridge team he has found himself creating The Thick Of It, and eventual big-screen outing In The Loop, alongside 2017’s The Death Of Stalin.

Now Iannucci stays within the realm of the period piece, however this time with a lighter, possibly more family oriented style. Much of this coming from his decision to adapt the words of Charles Dickens, which some might say is almost the polar opposite of the works that helped make him famous.

The Personal History Of David Copperfield follows Dev Patel’s titular Copperfield recounting his life from the rags and harsh conditions of his childhood – forced to work in a glass bottle making factory – to the struggles of his adult life, continuing to deal with those who were a part of his growing up; who almost seem to be invading his adulthood.

Amongst all the lightly, yet convincingly, held drama the standard brand of Iannucci comedy remains present. Often well-placed and naturalistic the frequently whimsical wit helps to form a fine tone for the film that helps to form a connection both with the central character and the world that he creates – the film being told from his perspective as part of a talk. With a cast that includes the likes of Tilda Swinton, Ben Whishaw, Peter Capaldi and Hugh Laurie there’s plenty of likeable British talent to help bring the world and characters to life. Each cast member clearly understands the eccentricity of their character, yet also the upset and almost tragedy that lingers within their lives. Iannucci’s screenplay effectively combining both of these elements with his sense of warmth and wit to create something undeniably inviting.

At one point Capaldi’s Mr Micawber states “We do currently exist primarily al fresco” – a line which sums up much of the wit and upset of the film. In fact Iannucci himself has said that there is “a sadness to the portrayal” of a number of the characters. One that brings an element of honesty into the piece, showing everyone with their flaws, allowing for a greater connection to be formed. Even if some traits do include constantly chasing people on donkeys, and occasionally kicking the rider off, due to not allowing them on, or near, the property – a recurring trait for Swinton’s Betsey Trotwood.

Everything simply combines to create a more charming, warm and witty piece. As if the words of Dickens’ novel have literally been somehow exactly translated to the screen. The film very much feels like it might do to read the book it’s based on. Through an all-star cast, and in fact the character of David Copperfield himself, Iannucci creates something very close to his own Paddington. Through it’s detail and insanely likeable characters the film just works, bringing the viewer in and never quite letting go of it’s grip on them.

Filled with wonderfully eccentric, likeable characters, never forgetting upset and tragedy, The Personal History Of David Copperfield shows new ground for Armando Iannucci. While still brilliantly funny this latest feature shows his warmth and emotion instead of fear.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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