The Personal History of David Copperfield

This retelling of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield takes us from his birth, through his adolescence and adulthood. With the tempo set like a whirling dervish from the moment David (Dev Patel) takes us with him to witness his birth and travel along through his pivotal life moments as he tells his story.

We see his birth where his mother, Clara Copperfield (Morfydd Clark, playing a double role, later as Dora Spenlow) a slight, fantastical woman, and the steadfast housekeeper, Peggotty (Daisy May Cooper) go through the hectic confusion while people mill about, entering and exiting during the process of birth. His Aunt, Betsy (Tilda Swinton) goes about, adding to the calamity insistent that the child of her late brother would be a girl, who would carry her legacy as a Trotwood. Her eccentricity noted immediately as she storms out once learning the child is a boy.

The film progresses, with the same quick tempo, through his brief, idyllic childhood with his mother, then his trip to Yarmouth summering with Peggotty’s family where his imagination begins its bloom in the house that is a boat, by the sea. Once David returns home, he is informed that his mother had married, and his stepfather sends him to London. He is sent to live with Mr. & Mrs. Micawber (Peter Capaldi and Bronagh Gallagher) while he works at the bottle factory.

David’s life goes from famine to feast, bear to bull. However, he has learned resilience through his encounters with people of all classes and situations. As Copperfield makes his way through life, the tempo slows down, and the frenzy subsides.

Yes, it’s a remake, the film is beautifully made, the cast is an incredibly talented international group. Hugh Laurie and Tilda Swinton provide an endearing portrait of eclectic personalities. The film is just a charming and whimsical piece of storytelling.

3.5 stars out of 5