The Personal History of David Copperfield

This uplifting film is a joy to watch.

As a movie lover, normalcy disappeared when the theatres were shut down in March of this year. I was always a great fan of Gary Larson’s “The Far Side,” and I have a treasured coffee cup that accurately describes my emotional despair.

You see an old man in pajamas, sulking on the edge of a bed as he stares out a window with a chicken sitting on the sill. The caption reads:

“The blue bird of happiness long absent from his life, Ned is visited by the chicken of depression.”

However, I sent Ned packing when I went to an AMC Theatre to watch The Personal History of David Copperfield. Filled with great acting that includes the super talented Dev Patel, it gradually evolves into an emotional powerhouse.

Director Armando Iannucci, whose last work was his interesting comic film, The Death of Stalin (2017), brings to the audience a fresh retelling of Dickens’ class story. Patel is just as engaging as Copperfield as he was in the memorable Slumdog Millionaire (2008), The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011), Lion (2016) and Hotel Mumbai (2018).

Here we have the movie beginning with Copperfield telling his life story. He recreates his childhood in Victoria England where his tyrannical step-father sends him to work in a bottle factory that he subsequently flees as a teenager. Thereafter his life becomes a series of adventures where he learns how to cope with both poverty and financial success.

One of the reasons I loved this film is its racially diverse cast. Sure Tilda Swinton and Hugh Laurie are splendid as two of Copperfield’s flawed aging patriarchs, and Ben Whishaw is unforgettable as the sinister Uriah Heep.

But the film is able to rise to a noteworthy level with the performances of Benedict Wong and Rosalind Eleazar. Wong plays Mr. Wickfield, an alcoholic accountant, whose love of booze of any kind hides the dangers represented by Heep. Ms. Eleazar is sensational as his smart, perceptive daughter who does her best to hide her attraction to Copperfield.

While there are multiple other special performances that are captivating in small ways, none are more compelling than that given by Aneurin Barnard, Paul Whitehouse and Daisy Mae Cooper. Barnard is a college friend of our star who tries to outrun his own weaknesses, while the latter two play a married couple living in an upside down boat that give needed comfort to Copperfield.

This movie will hit a soft spot in your heart. You will find that the blue bird of happiness has found a way to again land in your life.