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Review: The Man Who Invented Christmas

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The story of how Charles Dickens actually revived the holiday of Christmas with his self-published novel, A Christmas Carol.

Dickens confronts his past by conjuring up fantastic characters including Ebenezer Scrooge, for his now classic Christmas tale. This movie is a unicorn.

It is family friendly yet also intellectually fascinating. The material is very familiar but quite fresh. Most important of all it is a sugar free Christmas movie. Utterly charming without any hint of cheese. I didn’t think it was possible.

It is based on a very clever (and apparently meticulously researched – extra points for that) book by Les Standiford. The story playfully documents the process Dickens went through in an incredibly intense six weeks in 1843 to not just write but also self-publish his book A Christmas Carol, with iconic illustrations. And as the title suggests, he changed the western world.

As played by Dan Stevens, Dickens is all fizzing energy chased by demons, so he moves at breakneck speed through a London that both appalls and inspires him as he struggles with the process of writing a new best seller.

As executive producer Paula Mazur put it: “At age 31, Dickens was a literary rock star. He was wildly successful and was plagued by all the issues that are attendant to that.”

Until his most recognisable Christmas character grumpily appears, urging him to write. Others soon follow, so he then has an inconvenient (and invisible to others) procession tailing him through the streets of London.

How he takes his cues from real people to create his iconic characters, his quirk of collecting names and the way his home life keeps intruding into his imagination make this an entertaining, sometimes remarkable, experience. Watch out for the ‘squeee’ he makes when an ancient waiter reveals his name is Marley.

Just like his books, his real life is not always sunshine and the dark passages temper the funny and fantastic scenes. His complicated relationship with his father (beautifully played by Jonathon Pryce) is as touching as it is trying. The scene where Marley’s ghost asks him what chains he has bound himself in was a highlight for me.

The street and domestic scenes are beautifully set, the costuming understated but spot on and the makeup augments character development. Whilst Dickens energy rarely flags, his eyes become darker and noticeably wilder as time passes and the deadline looms.

Roslyn saw this film as a guest of Dendy Cinemas Canberra, where this film opens on 30 November.

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