It’s a Modern Tale… Set in the 1800s
Unlike many movies and series set in the 19th century, The Personal History of David Copperfield features a diverse cast. Its lead actor, Dev Patel, is of Indian descent. Several other characters, including the mother of James Steerforth, are black. Iannucci, the director, said he wanted a diverse cast to better convey the story’s message to a modern audience.
“I just wanted to cast the best people,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “... I wanted the audience to feel that you're watching people living in their present day, and therefore we wanted to avoid all the mannerisms of how people behave when they put costumes and bonnets and big white dresses on -- and the stiffness of that.”
It Has Messages for Christians
At its core, the movie is about a child with anxiety problems who overcomes multiple obstacles to become someone important -- and then loses it all. It’s a rags-to-riches-and-back-to-rags story, with a happy ending. It has lessons about poverty, the class system, bullying, mental illness, and the importance of fathers and family.
It also has Christian themes. Copperfield seeks a second chance in life, constantly afraid his friends will learn he was a troubled orphan. The movie doesn’t feature the redemptive message of Les Miserables, although it hints at the yearning each individual has for grace and mercy in this life. The film -- set in a society where poor people roamed the streets -- also encourages us to care for the downtrodden. “You can’t take something from someone who has nothing,” Copperfield says during one moment of indignation.
The Personal History of David Copperfield is a family-friendly film with no coarse language (minus a “my L-rd”), no sexuality (although we do see a woman screaming while giving birth), and minimal violence (we see a couple of fights, and we hear Copperfield’s step-father beat him). This is a classic that Hollywood didn’t ruin.
Dickens’ fans likely will enjoy it.
The Personal History Of David Copperfield is rated PG for thematic material and brief violence.
Entertainment rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 4 out of 5 stars.