The Man Who Invented Christmas a new spin on A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) casts aside his insecurities to write his now iconic tale, A Christmas Carol.
Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) casts aside his insecurities to write his now iconic tale, A Christmas Carol.PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION

REVIEW / DRAMA

THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS (PG)

104 minutes/Opens tomorrow/ 3 stars

The story: Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) has had three failed books and desperately needs to pen a hit to keep his family afloat. After hearing some children's ghost stories by chance, he starts getting visits in his head by the characters from his now classic novella, A Christmas Carol, including the disgruntled Scrooge (Christopher Plummer).

Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is probably one of the most adapted, referenced and parodied yuletide stories of all time.

Given how familiar audiences are with the tale, how can one possibly give it a new spin?

Director Bharat Nalluri's (Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day, 2008) take does just that - it shifts perspectives by going behind the scenes of how Dickens came up with the story in the first place.

If the film is at all historically accurate, the author had written it during a time when Christmas - one of the most festive and jolly of holidays in the modern age - was not even a big deal.

Other writers in the film are seen constantly questioning Dickens' decision to write a story set during Christmas, reminding him that no one celebrated it anymore in secularised 19th-century England.

Apparently, it was largely due to Dickens' heartwarming novella and its imagery of cosy family dinners on snowy winter nights that changed the spirit of the holiday season forever.

Whether or not he invented Christmas, as the title suggests, the film is mostly successful in tugging at the heartstrings.

While readers know exactly how Dickens' disgruntled character Scrooge gets a second chance, what is less known is that the tale mirrored the author's life in many ways.

After suffering a series of flops, a frantic Dickens did not believe that he could ever produce another hit after Oliver Twist.

With a fifth child on the way and tensions building with his father, he found himself becoming increasingly frustrated and bitter.

Through a series of flashbacks to a difficult childhood and fantastical imagination inspired by ghost stories he hears, he finally manages to cast aside his insecurities to write the now iconic tale.

A movie about how a book is put together could have been visually bland, but things are literally brought to life here with the story's famous characters constantly popping up and speaking to Dickens as if they were real humans.

Scrooge, as expected, is the star of the show, with a fantastic Christopher Plummer in the role of a fictional character who keeps bugging Dickens to move aside or to write faster, as if he were a demanding editor.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 29, 2017, with the headline 'New spin on A Christmas Carol'. Print Edition | Subscribe