Adapted from Words Like That S1 Ep. 5: “Christmas Movie Special + End of Year Story Updates," originally released December 19, 2023.
I’ve already featured a version of A Christmas Carol in this list, and, in a way, this one is kind of another adaptation. But it’s also a quirky biopic about the author, Charles Dickens, focussing on the six weeks he spent feverishly writing what would become this timeless tale.
The Man Who Invented Christmas is similar to Shakespeare in Love. In both instances, we’re presented a story that delves into the inspirations surrounding a famous work from a prolific author. The Man Who Invented Christmas, however, is far more accurate to the true origin of A Christmas Carol than Shakespeare in Love was to Romeo and Juliet. And what it lacks in accuracy, it makes up for in inventiveness and whimsy.
The film also showcases the brilliance, struggles, and idiosyncrasies of the “creative type” better than any film I’ve seen. We see Dickens struck by inspiration, immersed, obsessed, rolling through his story like a speeding bullet—only to be stopped abruptly by a random person knocking on his door, breaking his concentration, banishing his muse, and causing unimaginable frustration. We see him hit a wall, grasping to come up with names, lines, plot points. At one point in the film, he says something to the effect of, “The characters—they won’t do what I want them to!”
We also get to see him flesh out the story by interacting with the characters in his mind, although, to Dickens, it is in the real world. It’s here we get to see a version of the Carol play out. But, because the story is a work in progress, it’s not quite what we’re used to, and the protagonist—the real character that needs to face his past before fading into a bleak future—isn’t Scrooge. It’s Dickens himself.
While it's steeped very much in what I would call “British humor” sensibilities, the film also sports a heavy subplot involving Dickens’s estranged father, a deadbeat “gentleman,” who, to his son’s chagrin, has come to London just in time for Christmas. But his dad is more than a smooth-talking bum; he’s a smooth-talking bum that knows his ways are wrong and, deepdown, feels guilty and ashamed of himself. How does Charles respond to this lost man who has caused him so much pain? For anyone who has dealt with friends or family like Charles’s father, the subplot hits hard, and the resolution might just make you re-think how to respond to such characters in your own life.
While the film is almost entirely devoid of parentally objectionable content (there is a curse or two and some scary images), it’s made for adults, and I’m not sure if the kids will be as interested in this as they would A Christmas Carol proper.
When my wife in I saw this in theaters in 2017, we both came out saying, “Yeah, that was pretty good. 7 out of 10.” However, the film has so grown in our estimation on annual watches since, this year, I found myself declaring it “one of the greatest Christmas films of all time.” And I mean it.
Dan Stevens is phenomenal as Dickens, and the legendary Christopher Plummer shines as the not-quite-fully-formed Scrooge, ever evolving in Dickens’s head. Meanwhile, Jonathan Price captures all the necessary nuance to deliver a sympathetic portrayal of the elder Dickens.
I now rate the film a 9/10 and say, if you like Dickens, A Christmas Christmas, or quirky British period pieces, with a dash of Christmas cheer, go check out The Man Who Invented Christmas.
Cole Powell is an award-winning singer/songwriter and Z-list YouTuber. Armed with degrees in computer technology and liberal arts and sciences, Powell seeks to pontificate his pitiful opinions to the masses through any means the internet allows.