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The Man Who Invented Christmas

posted 8 Jan 2018, 04:47 by Scene Alba Magazine
When we meet novelist Charles (Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey), he’s just had three flops in a row and is struggling to support his pregnant wife, their four young children, and his freeloading father and meek mum. His publishers won’t renew his contract, so Charles decides to self-publish his “Christmas ghost story.” It’s not only going to cost him everything he has financially, but emotionally too… as he searches for the perfect ending to his book, his own life and even Christmas itself are transformed.

Clichés abound. But thanks to some superb acting, The Man Who Invented Christmas doesn’t fall flat. This is Stevens’ showcase to be sure, but Christopher Plummer is a perfect humbug-grumbling Scrooge, and Jonathan Pryce as Dickens’ dad is just heartbreaking. We’re given a glimpse into the past when he was sent to debtor’s prison, leaving his young son Charles behind to toil in a shoe polish factory. Now he’s turned up, still broke and selling his famous son’s autograph – and yet, Pryce makes him an endearing character. Ian McNiece is excellent as Dickens’ longtime friend and sounding board, and Miles Jupp is love-to-hate as Dickens’ ingratiating rival William Makepeace Thackeray.

The female characters are given much less to do, which is both surprising and disappointing, since The Man Who Invented Christmas is written by a female (Susan Coyne, Anne of Green Gables). (Then again, it is called The Man Who Invented Christmas, so what do we expect?) Still, there is a young housemaid who loves to read and is given great responsibility by Dickens, and his wife (Morfydd Clark, Pride Prejudice and Zombies) is given a modern sensibility and some admirable sass.

The story is based on a nonfiction book by Les Standiford. Director Bharat Nalluri (Mrs. Pettigrew Lives for a Day) brings out the cinema magic by showing us Dickens’ imaginary characters coming to life in his office as he chips his way through writer’s block and races against the deadline to get the book to the printer’s in time for Christmas delivery. But in the end, it feels more like ghosts wrote the book – not the author himself.

The Man Who Invented Christmas is not a fast-paced film and it’s quite talky. While I do think it’s too staid for the YouTube generation, it’s still a satisfactory family film and will be of special interest to budding novelists or Christmas buffs.