The Personal History of David Copperfield (2020) A Review

Based on the beloved Charles Dickens novel, this adaption certainly takes a few liberties, but it fantastically acted, even if it does feel a little long.

Certificate: PG

Director: Armando Iannucci

Screenwriter: Simon Blackwell (screenplay by), Charles Dickens (novel)

Starring: Dev Patel, Hugh Laurie, Tilda Swinton

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Runtime: 119 Minutes

Rating: 3 Stars

Reviewed by: Pearl


With a cast like this, playing some of Charles Dickens most loved and memorable characters, it would be hard to make a bad film. They do a fantastic job, Hugh Laurie and Peter Capaldi were particularly great choices for the roles of Mr Macawber and Mr Dick respectively. But despite all this for me the film felt a lot longer then it’s two-hour runtime.

The film (and book) follows it’s name sake as he is recounting his life story to a captive audience. Beginning when he was a young boy, working in a bottling factory, right through to his success as a young man, and all the happiness and misfortune that happen in between.

The cast, as I mentioned above, was truly spectacular. I was so excited to see this based on the cast that it had. The downside is that when I am presented with am ensemble like this I expect greatness. And this fell just a little short of great. The acting was strong don’t get me wrong and the characters were all well portrayed and true to the original story. But I just wanted more. Ben Whishaw was seriously under used as the slimy Mr Heep and the same can be said for Mr Murdstone. They are the villains of this piece, they really needed to be given more attention. Both seemed to be dealt with far too easily.

For the most part I did really enjoy this film. This was a completely new and different way to portray a Charles Dickens story without its usual gloom and doom. But I do think it suffered from a slightly wonky pace. It is only a two-hour film, a pretty average runtime these days, but I really felt like I had been in the screen for aaaages. The beginning of the film was too slow, and I know you have to set up the story etc etc, but it was just a bit of a slog. Then the middle was great, lots of things happening, lots of new characters being introduced etc. Then we get to the end and it all seemed a little rushed. The story involving Mr Heep could have been given more time. We never really see the development of the relationship between David and Agnes. Dora literally just gets written out of the narrative. It was all just a bit odd.

A fan of Charles Dickens may enjoy this for it’s changes of pace from previous adaptions, and it is entertaining enough. But for the most part, bits of it were just really disappointing, I wanted so much more from it then we got. Not one I will be returning too.


The Personal History of David Copperfield is out in UK cinemas Now!

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