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Review: The Man Who Invented Christmas

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Now, we all know the story of A Christmas Carol, as there have been so many incarnations of the original book it’s nearly impossible to avoid. But how many people know the tale of how Charles Dickens penned the tale, and in just six weeks? Well, I certainly didn’t, and that’s where The Man Who Invented Christmas comes in.

Dan Stevens portrays the perhaps lesser-known version of Charles Dickens – manic, and not at all the typical reserved Victorian. His performance shows glimpses of his role in FX’s Legion as David Haller, which no doubt helped to secure him the role in this film. Unfortunately this doesn’t feel very fresh, despite the fact the overall film seems like a diversion from your average Christmas flick. ‘The-obsessive-writer-becoming-lost-in-their-own-head-and-completing-an-emotional-journey-that-mirrors-their-characters’ about sums it up. It doesn’t feel like something we’ve not seen somewhere before.

I think there’s some question of how historically accurate the piece really is, as with any period film. Even with mega Dickens fan Miriam Margolyes on set, I imagine there’s artistic license aplenty. And I’m no historian. I mean, how much can we really claim that this man, and his book, invented Christmas?

Regardless, this is a perfectly enjoyable film – it’s easy to watch, it doesn’t ask a lot of you. I think it does exactly what it promises as a slightly unconventional Christmas film, and most of the cast do a brilliant job. Christopher Plummer is a miserable Scrooge, though not so miserable that he becomes a caricature; Anna Murphy is a charming and grounding Tara, the young housemaid; and Justin Edwards is a lovable and loyal friend as Forster, who also gets my vote for favourite performance. Miles Jupp is disappointingly two dimensional as Thackeray, and I don’t have glowing reports of Dan Stevens.

Despite some imperfections – notably, a glaringly obvious set in London’s back alleys, and one horrendously on-the-nose conversation that served to introduce us to the real-life embodiment of Scrooge – the film remains charming at its core. I loved Dickens’ practice of collecting names, however true that may be, and noticing the nods made to his other works.

I’m sure it will receive something of a battering among the critics, but The Man Who Invented Christmas is fun if nothing else, and an easy holiday watch. Besides, it’s about time Dan Stevens made up for years gone by and gave us a nice Christmas, after THAT Downton Abbey Christmas special that ruined us all. Maybe next time, he’ll be in an even better one.

The Man Who Invented Christmas is in cinemas nationwide now. Image source: ETOnline.com