The Man Who Invented Christmas shows what creative madness looks like to an audience that might not ever experience it.
There is a moment when a writer enters what can only be called “creative madness”. They are utterly consumed by the story they are writing on some level and they start to do things that look weird to the outside world. They talk to the characters they are creating out loud. The moments that we see Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) doing this exact thing in The Man Who Invented Christmas that will ring true to anyone who has ever been lost in creativity like that before. They will watch the manic energy, the inability to sleep, and they will relate.
The problem then becomes in how many people in the audience haven’t experienced that feeling before. Will the performance by Stevens come off as too crazy? Too weird? Is it going to make much sense to people who can’t relate to it? Maybe a little and that really depends on how much the audience is willing to get behind a movie that is, essentially, about overcoming writers block. Fortunately the cast, but Stevens in particular, are good at turning that into watchable drama. We know he is going to finish the book and we know it’s going to be a hit. What we don’t know is whether or not Dickens is going to ruin most of his interpersonal relationships in the process.
The best moments in the movie come when the other characters react to Dickens being odd or getting lost in his own head. At the same time no one indulges him completely. When he does something insensitive his wife Kate (Morfydd Clark) is quick to call him on it. We also see how elements of Dickens life bled into his most famous work as the fantastic Christopher Plummer as the manifestation of Scrooge follows Dickens around as they try and finish the book in time.
We get to see how the overall theme of the book is developed while we watch Dickens grapple with his own family issues. This is the second time this year we’ve watched tortured authors come up with stories that will live on as “feel good” pieces for generations. The last time it was PTSD relating to World War I and this time it’s flashbacks to being sold to a factory to work off a family debt as a child. These stories always get more interesting the more we learn about the author.
The Man Who Invented Christmas manages to take the concept of getting over writers block a compelling watch in a movie. It’s entertaining to watch but for anyone who has gotten lost in their own creativity and had to break through again it will ring even more true. Absolutely worth a look especially if you’re trying to figure out why that writer friend of yours sometimes talks to themselves.
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