‘The Man Who Invented Christmas’ revisited: Dan Stevens stars as Charles Dickens

This festive season marks 5 years since the release of The Man Who Invented Christmas.

Starring Dan Stevens from Downton Abbey, the 2017 Christmas movie depicts the Victorian author Charles Dickens as he creates and writes his 1843 novella A Christmas Carol.

The story focuses on how Dickens brought famous characters such as Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim to life and the social background that inspired the story’s premise.

Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) has had three unsuccessful works: Martin Chuzzlewit, Barnaby Rudge, and American Notes for General Circulation. With financial hardship looming, Dickens must quickly write a successful story.

He finds inspiration throughout London, with one of the most notable inspirations being the largely unattended funeral of a wealthy man. Another one is the callous comments of a well-off “self-made” gentleman towards the poor.

The new Irish maid, Tara (Anna Murphy), with a talent for storytelling, spins an incredible story of “fairy maids and fiery spirit” and inspires one of the major story elements: ghosts. As she tells Dickens, “on Christmas Eve the veils between this world and the next thin out and that’s when the spirits cross over and walk among us.”

Sadly, there is not a market for Christmas books with the holiday being celebrated by few people. However, Dickens takes on the project to complete the novella within six weeks. The author conjures up Ebenezer Scrooge (portrayed by the legendary Christopher Plummer) and Jacob Marley (Donald Sumpter from Game of Thrones) amongst other characters. While Dickens believes there can be no redemption for a man like Scrooge, Tara maintains that people can change.

Dickens’ strained relationship with his kind hearted but irresponsible father, John Dickens (Jonathan Pryce, who recently joined The Crown) is a major subplot.

Like Jacob Marley, Dickens has also forged a chain for himself. Dickens’ chain is composed of the childhood memories of his father being sent to debtors’ prison. At a young age Dickens had to bear long hours and harsh working conditions in a blacking factory.

The Man Who Invented Christmas is, of course, also has parallels with A Christmas Carol itself.

Dickens, like Ebeneezer Scrooge, must reconcile with his past in order to change the present and the future.

As with many biopics. the film takes some liberties for entertainment and storytelling purposes, but succeeds in illuminating the moral lessons of A Christmas Carol. There are few stories so embedded in our cultural consciousness that encompasses kindness, generosity, and, perhaps above all, the ability for anyone to transform their lives for the better.

With poverty, income inequality, the energy crisis, rising food and housing prices, and stagnant wages, the issues Dickens deal with in A Christmas Carol still resonate all too well in 2022.

Dan Stevens gives a particularly strong performance as Dickens, portraying the author’s dizzying energy and genius, while the late Christopher Plummer is wonderful as Ebenezer Scrooge in his early stages.

Jonathan Pyrce successfully draws compassion and irritation in his portrayal of the eccentric John Dickens.

Period drama fans should also keep an eye out for Justin Edwards (Love & Friendship) as the loyal John Forster, Miriam Margoyles (Call the Midwife) as the often exasperated Mrs. Fisk, and Morfydd Clark (The Personal History of David Copperfield) as the neglected Kate Dickens.

The Man Who Invented Chrsitmas is a beautiful, heart-warming family film that truly captures the spirit of the holiday and demonstrates how we can keep Christmas in our hearts all year.

The Man Who Invented Christmas is available on DVD on Amazon.

Written by Delicia Johnson.