In the movie “The Man Who Invented Christmas,” Dickens battles and defeats his inner Scrooge

Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) and Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer) standing side by side.

graphic by Emily Reed

Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) and Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer) standing side by side.

by Emily Reed, Co-editor-in-chief

Are the same old Christmas movies leaving you less than jolly? Do the repetitive plots and cheesy lines of Hallmark Christmas movies make you say “Bah Humbug?” For a breath of peppermint-fresh air, watch The Man Who Invented Christmas to witness “The Christmas Carol” told from the other side of the quill.

The strength of this movie lies in the superb acting and story that connects the audience to Dickens’ personal journey to forgive his father for ruining his childhood while writing his bestseller, “The Christmas Carol.”

Dan Stevens is an excellent choice to play the eccentric Victorian writer Charles Dickens. Stevens is best known for his performance as Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey and fans were devastated when he asked for his character to be “killed off” so he could pursue other acting opportunities. However, Stevens has been making a name for itself with his superb acting as a mental asylum patient in the psychological thriller TV series Legion and now his performance as Dickens.

Playing the complicated character of David Haller in Legion helped Stevens develop into a serious actor with emotional depth. His portrayal of Dickens encapsulated the full canon of emotions with his line delivery and facial expressions of madness, bitterness, acceptance, and finally overflowing joy.

Throughout the movie, Dickens realizes that now because of his success, he is far from the poor but jolly pauper he was a boy. He doesn’t want to admit that bitterness towards his absent father wormed its way into his heart and destroyed his joy for Christmas. Dickens frustrations towards his  childhood,

It also helps that Dickens is surrounded by unconventional, intriguing characters that bring his story to life. Christopher Plummer (The Sound of Music, Up, National Treasure) played a Scrooge that the audience loved to hate and by the end forgives for all of his misdeeds. But, it wasn’t the seasoned veteran Plummer that stole the show.

Newcomer Anna Murphy played the Ghost of Christmas Past and Tara, the Dickens’ young family housemaid. This red-headed Irish actress has a phenomenal stage presence and acted as the catalyst for Dickens’ imagination and story to take flight. She is his first editor and they struck up an unlikely friendship that helped Dickens sort through his brokenness and reach reconciliation with his imperfect father who he still loved. 

Tara becomes a surrogate daughter of sorts to Dickens and hearts warmed at their bond. Murphy’s previous work only included infrequent television show appearances but after this performance, she’ll surely be in more full length films.

By keeping the cast small, the film could properly develop their characters to their full potential.

Sadly, the small budget and intense focus on the story left little room for cinematic value. The costuming was true to the period but not particularly stunning. The cinematography was adequate, but nothing to write home about.

By far, the biggest drawback was the lackluster soundtrack. The score was void of artistry due to its lack of primary composer and creative vision. Decca Records was responsible for the soundtrack and they watered down the soundtrack so it sounded like every other classical score. What’s even more disappointing is that the score was performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra that is capable of playing much more complex arrangements but was underutilized in this film.

For me, this detracted from the film as a whole but for other film goers, the dull score will likely not be something they notice.

Regardless of the score, the film is a different take on a tried and true story. This film is much more worthwhile than rewatching Jim Carrey’s The Christmas Carol or even The Muppet’s Christmas Carol because it adds another layer of depth to a familiar story. Knowing how it was written also helps the viewers appreciate the story in a new way.

The Man Who Invented Christmas is a perfect film to kickoff the holiday season and get everyone’s heart in the right place. The movie left everyone grinning from ear to ear with the knowledge that Christmas is more than the presents we wrap.