Everyone knows the classic holiday story A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Multiple editions of the book have been continuously in print since it first came out in 1843. There are numerous movie adaptations shown and stage play versions performed every Christmas season on television and in community theaters. Although considered to be one of Britain’s most celebrated authors, Dickens himself struggled to make ends meet and suffered from the terrifying ghoul of writer’s block.
The delightful holiday film, The Man Who Invented Christmas, is based on the true story of Dickens writing his classic novella, A Christmas Carol, as portrayed in the book of the same name by Les Standiford. At a time in his career when three of his most recent novels flopped and book sales plummeted, Dickens struggled to come up with another story even as his own funds were diminishing. With clever humor and fantastical creativity, the story comes alive in his imagination after hearing his housemaid tell the children a story about ghosts and seeing the starving, illiterate vagrant children begging for money or bread on the streets of London.
At the time, Britain was just exploring Christmas traditions that had all but disappeared from society. The Oxford Movement of the 1830s and 40s helped to revive the traditions and religious rituals for Christmas, but it was only just trickling down to the everyday person on the street. Dickens wanted a unique story that would touch people at their depths and challenge society as to how people are treated, especially the poor.
Dan Stevens humorously brings to life Dickens’ inner struggles as he wracks his brain to come up with a name for Mr. Scrooge, played by the versatile Christopher Plummer. His own father (Jonathan Pryce) cannot understand his son’s creative mind and becomes intolerant of his seemingly lazy attitude about providing for his family. One by one, Dickens’ characters appear in his mind and then in his study as he carries on conversations with them, much to the consternation of his wife (Morfydd Clark) as his voice carries through the halls and walls of their Victorian home. This cleverly concocted script tells the essence of the story through the bits and pieces that come to Dickens’ imagination via actual events and persons he encounters.
Tiny Tim is visualized after seeing a homeless crippled child on the streets and Jacob Marley appears in the image of a miserly businessman Dickens encounters. Although Dickens’ creativity comes in fits and starts, the beauty of the whole story unfolds amid his own family living and adventures.
The classic story comes alive in this film with the same wit and horror and beauty as the original manuscript. Dickens’ publisher could not accept his manuscript six weeks before Christmas and so he self-published it. He completed writing, printing, and binding the final draft in time for selling on December 19th. It sold out by Christmas Eve. It is said to have revived in society the Christmas spirit of giving, family gatherings, and generosity to the poor. The Man Who Invented Christmas will be sure to delight the whole family in bringing that same Christmas spirit into our own time, leaving the mark of what Christ’s birth is really all about—celebrating the gift of LOVE itself come to us gratuitously and so inspiring us to reach out in selfless love to others around us and near us. This is the true Christmas spirit. Thank you, Charles Dickens!