A bizarre mixture of biography and child-pleasing Christmas drama, I couldn’t decide whether or not I liked this film. Dan Stevens, enigmatic and mercurial to the point of insanity, was exhausting to watch as he sprinted around London on a debt-fuelled mission to write, illustrate, print and publish a novel to save his reputation (which rather took the romance out of the tale of a Christmas miracle, I must say).
Don’t expect to like the narrow-minded Dickens of this interpretation. A counterpart to his own Scrooge, Stevens plays a selfish, tortured artist figure with no room for anything but his work, and no patience for human weakness. Dickens’ hatred for his main character only serves to bring out the similarities between them, and the vision of Scrooge, played by Christopher Plummer, added a more nuanced element to an otherwise passable, but predictable period drama.
An odd but touching side story tells the tale of Dickens’ hard previous life, his time spent in a workhouse and his multi-faceted, traumatic relationship with his father, the ever-jovial Jonathan Pryce. Tenuous links are made between this personal element and the narrative of the novel, but all in all the familial roles work well and lead the narrative to a slightly predictable but believable ‘happy ending’. Most interesting to me, however, were the multi-role secondary characters, supposed to show the real-life inspiration through which Dickens created his masterpiece- Justin Edwards is an excellent Forster/ghost of Christmas present.
Don’t watch this film if you’re looking for an honest portrayal of the writing of A Christmas Carol. Don’t believe that Charles Dickens actually invented Christmas. But if you crave a generous helping of Christmas spirit and a film to emphasise the importance of the generosity and kindness Scrooge lacked and Dickens brought to life- you might just love this.