Why The Personal History Of David Copperfield May Hit Differently Now Than When It Originally Premiered

The last six months have been an incredibly tough ride for most of humanity. A deadly pandemic has deeply affected all of the ways we live our lives and interact with other people, and it has caused both great sadness and death as well as economic chaos. Of course, one of the blessings of entertainment is that it can provide an escape from reality – a distraction we can live in to experience something different than the everyday – and it’s for that reason that director Armando Iannucci’s The Personal History Of David Copperfield is, in its own way, arriving at a perfect time.

Following its world premiere last year at the Toronto International Film Festival and being released in the U.K. and Ireland at the start of the year, Iannucci’s adaptation of the classic Charles Dickens tale is getting a limited theatrical release this weekend, and during a depressing time it makes for a delightful emotional antidote. It’s a movie that is bursting with refreshing optimism that comes in contrast to the world’s darkness, and earlier this month I had the pleasure of discussing its potential effect with the director and two of its principal stars:

I had the pleasure of participating in the virtual press day for The Personal History Of David Copperfield last week, given the opportunity for a brief conversation with Armando Iannucci, Dev Patel, and Hugh Laurie, and my first question for the group was in regard to the emotional impact they feel the film may have being released now given everything that is going on in the world. The movie is no stranger to praise for its positivity, as reviews at TIFF last year remarked on its buoyancy, however, Iannucci agrees that the core message and values of the feature will have a special impact.

Said the filmmaker,

I think we're all ready for something uplifting and positive and fun and funny and humane and intimate, and all those things really. It's what prompted me to... when I reread the book about 10 years ago, I was reminded by how funny it was, but how also contemporary it felt in all the themes are about forming connections. Who do you love? Who are your friends? Who looks after you? Who helps you? Who do you help, irrespective of their backgrounds and their own stories and so on… After what's happened this year, maybe there is now a keener appetite for something like this.

Based on the book David Copperfield by Charlies Dickens, the film is an epic that traces the life of its titular character (Dev Patel), a young man in 18th century England who experiences a great deal of trial and tribulation as he matures from being the single child of a widowed mother to become an acclaimed writer. There are those who try to demean him and crush his spirit, but with unending faith in those he cares about and endless enthusiasm he powers through and succeeds.

The Personal History Of David Copperfield paints a beautiful, funny, and uplifting tale, and while Hugh Laurie was reticent to provide any kind of firm prediction of how audiences are going to respond to the material, he certainly recognizes its potential. Said the actor,

I absolutely hope that people are looking for something that has this sort of uplifting spirit to it. But it's always a nerve wracking time to present anything to an audience. You never really know how it's going to go, but we all, I think, have our fingers crossed and we're excited by it.

Also starring Tilda Swinton, Ben Whishaw, Peter Capaldi, Bendict Wong, Gwendoline Christie, and more, The Personal History Of David Copperfield is in limited theaters this weekend, and you can head over to the CinemaBlend YouTube page to watch my full interview with Armando Iannucci, Dev Patel, and Hugh Laurie.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.