The best thing about this charming, lively romp about Charles Dickens trying to write his novella A Christmas Tale is that, while the story is based at Christmas and about the writing of a book about Christmas, it's not your normal saccharine Christmas tale.
Largely, this is because it's as much a biopic and look at Dickens' writing process as a story about Christmas. Based on the novel by Les Standiford, The Man Who Invented Christmas reveals Dickens' complicated relationship with his entrepreneurial father (played by Jonathan Pryce) and the way he worked, bringing his overly imaginative imagination to bear on real people and real experiences.
The film begins on a tour of America where, after the release of Oliver Twist, Dickens is the man of the moment. We quickly move to 16 months and three flops later, and the situation is quite different; writers block has taken hold and the larger-than-life Dickens is quickly going into debt.
A chance encounter at a grave yard with a gruff, lonely and wealthy industrialist gives Dickens the idea of a Christmas-themed story based around Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer). When his publishers turn down the idea, Dickens decides to write, illustrate and distribute the book himself - all in a short space of time before Christmas.
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Downton Abbey's Dan Stevens is fabulous as Dickens, a portrayal that crosses wide-eyed and enthusiastic puppy dog with tortured artist. The art direction is handsome and the scenes beautifully shot, with director Bharat Nalluri (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day) also delivering humour, lightness and a little quirk - especially delightful is how Dickens' characters come to life in his mind, and follow him around trying to dictate the story.
If anything, it's a little too jolly and exuberant; with the chaos meaning the somber moments and connection to the plight of Dickens don't quite make an impression. But, just like Stevens as Dickens, The Man Who Invented Christmas is immensely likeable, and undoubtedly will having you leaving the theatre feeling more festive than when you entered.
Cast: Dan Stevens, Christopher Plummer
Director: Bharat Nalluri
Running Time: 104 mins
Rating: PG (adult Themes )
Verdict: Pick of the Christmas tales on offer.
DID YOU KNOW ...
Actor Simon Callow who stars as illustrator John Leech in The Man Who Invented Christmas has previously starred as both Charles Dickens (in Doctor Who) and his famous character Ebenezer Scrooge (in Christmas Carol: The Movie).