The Man Who Invented Christmas follows the story of how renowned British author, Charles Dickens, wrote the most famous and influential work of fiction, A Christmas Carol.
The film is directed by Bharat Nalluri, written by Susan Coyne, and is based on the novel of the same name by Les Standiford. Charles Dickens is played by Dan Stevens (Legion, Downtown Abbey) and Christopher Plummer plays Dickens’ greatest literary creation, Ebenezer Scrooge.
The story is a revisionist tale of how Dickens created the world of A Christmas Carol. At a time of crises, Dickens is confronted with dark memories of his past, a faltering writing career, and a fractured marriage. Pushed to the brink, he becomes inspired by the people who populate London, his family, his past, and a strange encounter with a man at a cemetery.
Nalluri and Coyne present a fascinating portrait of Dickens that examines the difficulties of being the successful writer both in the public eye and in his private world. Dickens is certainly not the most agreeable person, but his plight is sympathetic. However, what is personable about Dickens is undercut by Steven’s rather theatrical and exaggerated performance. There are moments where the performance is quite jarring, but Nalluri’s filming has a fun energy to it that manages to keep up with Steven’s theatrics.
Nalluri clearly perceives Dickens’ as an exceptional writer and he creates a believable portrayal of a tortured writer. This is what makes this film stand out from other biographical films about iconic writers. Nalluri expertly lays out many of Dickens’ quirks, which inform the type of writer he is. For example: Dickens’ fascination with names. He places great importance on the names in his books. Dickens’ carries a small yellow notebook that he takes out whenever he hears a new name. He spends a considerable amount of time trying to come up with the name “Scrooge”. Dickens is a writer who understands the power of invoking a reaction with nothing more than a name. Nalluri also showcases the inner discussions Dickens’ has in his head, in his Mind Palace. His characters are very real to him because they are inspired by the people around him. Scrooge is brilliantly developed as he starts off as a man Dickens’ accidentally encounters at a cemetery, slowly becoming the iconic character in the novella and a reflection of Dickens.
It is fascinating to watch how A Christmas Carol comes to be as it is more than just the novella that is responsible for the many Christmas traditions practiced today, but it is the result of a personal evolution for Dickens’. Whether this film is accurate to the events that lead up to the publication of A Christmas Carol is inconsequential, as this is a film about a man overcoming his demons.
All in all The Man Who Invented Christmas is an excellent film about Christmas and the man who invented it.