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The Personal History of David Copperfield

Of the various words to describe Armando Iannucci’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ novel, the first that comes to mind is vibrant. From the sparkling performances to Iannucci’s fluid and graceful camera, the film takes the viewer on a merry dance through the trials and tribulations of David Copperfield (Dev Patel). The gorgeous production design by Christina Casali brings the various quirky locations to life, including a boathouse on the beach, a factory of glass jars and increasingly cramped lodgings. While the film is more interested in whimsy that social realism, there are nonetheless dangers including oppression, violence and financial straits, ensuring that David’s difficulties balance the delights. Most entertainingly, the screenplay by Iannucci and Simon Blackwell makes references to the practices of fictionality and storytelling, through some aspects that are overt and others less so. Far from being a stodgy piece of heritage buckling under the weight of its own import, The Personal History of David Copperfield is a joyous romp through notions of family, identity and owning one’s story.

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