The Personal History of David Copperfield

BBFC RatingThe Personal History of David Copperfield

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GenreComedy, Drama
DirectorArmando Iannucci
CountryUK, USA
Running Time1HR 59MINS
SeasonMain Programme

Armando Iannucci brings David Copperfield fizzing to life with all-star collaborators in this exuberant, entertaining and sharply pertinent adaptation.

Adapting one of Charles Dickens’ most beloved characters, Iannucci and regular co-writer Simon Blackwell create a Victorian-set epic that nonetheless feels very modern, fresh and, quite frankly, hilarious. Following Copperfield from early youth through to middle age, the story traces his social awakening, charting huge personal ups and downs as he witnesses the best and worst of humanity. Dickens’ ‘favourite child’ amongst his works, the plot also tackles social injustice in many forms – a lack of protection for children, poor industrial conditions for the working class, and wealth inequality. So, who better to tackle this tale than Iannucci, the genius behind The Thick of ItIn the LoopVeep and The Death of Stalin. His work has peeled back the hypocrisy of the ruling and political class with such unfettered enthusiasm and biting comic acuity. 

Beyond the superb script, Iannucci’s choice of lead is inspired. Having revealed his ability to convey a bottomless well of emotion in Lion, Dev Patel shows his lightning-sharp comic timing as Copperfield, as well as a wicked gift for mimicry. He’s abetted by a stunning cast embarrassingly full of riches, with meaty comic roles for Tilda Swinton as Betsey Trotwood, Hugh Laurie as Mr Dick, Peter Capaldi as the impossibly sunny Mr Micawber and Ben Whishaw as the gloriously creepy Uriah Heep. Humorous, busy, bustling and bursting with colour and energy, this is a Dickens reworking unlike any you’ve seen on the screen. 

- Tricia Tuttle, BFI London Film Festival