The Personal History of David Copperfield

Charles Dickens has surely never been as hilarious as in this gorgeous big-screen adaptation, directed by arch satirist Armando Iannucci, of Veep and The Thick of It.

The laughs just keep on coming, exquisitely delivered by a cast including Peter Capaldi as a feckless yet charming Mr Micawber, Tilda Swinton briskly eccentric as Betsey Trotwood and Hugh Laurie as the distracted Mr Dick. 

These fine actors inhabit their characters with ceaseless gusto, relishing the classic words (given a modern polish by Simon Blackwell’s smart script) and acting like the original Boz sketches come to life. I loved it – this might just be the funniest costume drama ever made. 

But its real triumph lies in the ‘colour blind’ casting, which gives us an Asian lead (the ever- likeable, hugely engaging Dev Patel) for this most British of parts, as well as black, brown and Chinese faces in many other roles, such as a fearsome Nikki Amuka-Bird as Mrs Steerforth.. You notice it for a minute or two and then realise it matters not a jot and get on with enjoying the film as much as everyone in it looks like they’re doing.

Perhaps Iannucci misses some of the melodrama and tragic betrayal at the heart of the novel, particularly with the contemptible cad Steerforth and his treatment of little Emily, but there’s so much to treasure in a production that captures the spirit of Dickens’ time and uses it playfully to reflect on the social issues, economic problems and the little personal joys of our own era.