The Man Who Invented Christmas
Director: Bharat Nalluri. Starring Dan Stevens, Christopher Plummer, Jonathan Pryce. Length: 104 minutes.
With no more money or ideas, but the desire to create a story that could warm the hearts of those indifferent to the misery of the poor, Charles Dickens finally finds his right inspiration in the tales of an old irish housemaid, and by watching the people living in the London of the late 1800s.
And so the famous Christmas Carol is born, an exciting story that will go on to become maybe the most illustrious effort of the English novelist.
To paraphrase the famous movie about The Bard, a fitting alternate title for this movie could be Dickens in Love. Indeed this Christmas movie, casting as its protagonist the booming Dan Stevens from Downton Abbey, has many points in common with the Oscar-winning movie.
Following a long proven cinematic formula, we start from the life of a writer to tell the genesis of one of his most famous works, by depicting it in intertwining plains of fiction and reality.
Here in particular, in order to show Dickens' prolific creative process (and equally prolific in his private life he was, as we meet his numerous and warm family…) the movie literally conjures the tale’s character inside the writer’s own studio, effectively depicting a character genesis and development through the use of hints from reality, literary and sometimes barely acoustic suggestions (“find the right name for a character and he shall appear” theorizes the writer).
Dickens is presented as an extremely positive individual, a loving father and a man caring sincerely for the fate of the less fortunate, but with a weakness stemming from an “embarassing” father… from which he wishes he could keep himself distant (as shown in brief flashbacks aside from the present).
So he too, somehow, despite his evident generosity, is questioned by the Christmas tale he is writing and on which he invested his whole future (he decided to bet on self-publishing to avoid his editor’s extortions). And so the ghosts that will become a crucial part of the tale bring us to Dickens’s own past, making us understand the roots of his sensitivity towards the disadvantaged.
The result is a film full of warmth which, thanks also to a first rate cast, could very well become a holiday season classic, brilliant enough to attract a family audience and even intriguing the more sophisticated viewers with his clever meta-literary game.