The Man Who Invented Christmas Review
We all know the story of A Christmas Carol, but do we know the story behind its inception? Director Bharat Nalluri explores the birth of Charles Dickens' classic novella, in The Man who Invented Christmas, and gives us a peak behind the curtain, to witness the magic that unfolded. However, he plays it safe by glossing over certain facts of Dickens' tragic childhood and downplaying the impact and influence Dickens' absent father had on much of his work.
The film follows Charles Dickens (Beauty and the Beast's Dan Stevens) as he tries to make a comeback after a series of flops. He's under pressure from his lawyer and publishers, as well as his agent John Foster (Justin Edwards) to deliver a book before Christmas, and it must be a hit because his debts are piling up. So, Charles tries his best to create a story centred around the concept of Christmas and comes up with the miserable and uncharitable Ebenezer Scrooge. A man who is visited by three spirits on Christmas Eve that show him the error of his ways. However, Dickens soon find himself being plagued by the characters of his latest book, with Scrooge (Christopher Plummer) coming to life to offer unwanted advice. Just when things couldn’t get any worse, Dickens' scourging father (Jonathan Pryce) also turns up to wreak havoc. Will Dickens manage to finish his novel in time, and more importantly will he make amends with his estranged father?
The Man Who Invented Christmas is a very safe film and that’s where my problem lies with it. There are hints of the tragic past of Dickens with a sad scene depicting the events that surrounded Dickens’ arrest and little Charlie being sent to the workhouse. It’s the kind of film which you put on after the Queen’s Speech, to watch with your mother and grandmother, while Dad's asleep after indulging in too many chocolates and the children are off playing with their toys. The film is kind of soft and fluffy without being offensive or too challenging to follow. It’s a nice, safe Christmas film which has heart and soul but seems a little too clichéd in places.
Dan Stevens is charismatic and funny as Dickens. Despite the script seeming a little flat, he does his best with the material and shines, and in one particular scene with Plummer is hilarious as they bounce insults back and forth. He plays Charles Dickens with warmth and charm, however there seems to be a lack of depth to this version. The real Dickens suffered from spouts of depression, he was eccentric and dedicated to his work, but we only get hints of this throughout the film. There is an impactful scene where Dickens' wife Kate (Morfydd Clark) is lying in bed and can hear her husband throwing a temper tantrum because he’s suffering from a writer’s block, but this is not a film to dwell too deeply on the idea of the tortured, complicated writer. Clark seems underused in this role, and reduced to being nothing more than a background character, which is a shame but seems to be the case for all of the numerous characters none of whom are not afforded enough screen time.
Plummer and Pryce are the film’s saving grace and they do their best to keep us entertained. Plummer gets to grips with Ebenezer Scrooge and appears to relish the opportunity to play a grumpy old man. He has all the best lines and quips, and he gets the most laughs throughout. Pryce is wonderful in the role of Dickens’ father, and reminded me of my own eccentric father, which hit a personal note. However, the story between him and Dickens’ seems very rushed and resolved so quickly that it doesn’t ring quite true.
Overall, The Man who Invented Christmas is treading on very safe ground, it won’t be a classic festive film in the same vein as something like It’s a Wonderful Life but it’s lighthearted, family friendly and entertaining, it won’t offend or upset anyone which is a blessing especially around this time of the year when patience begins to wear thin. It certainly got me in the mood for Christmas and eager to read A Christmas Carol curled up in front of the fireplace, waiting patiently for Father Christmas to arrive.