The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017)


The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017)

In 1843, the celebrated British novelist, Charles Dickens, is at a low point in his career with three flops behind him and his family expenses piling up at home. Determined to recover, Dickens decides to write a Christmas story and self-publish it in less than two months. As Dickens labors writing on such short notice, his estranged father and mother come to bunk with him. Still haunted by painful memories of his father ruining his childhood by his financial irresponsibility, Dickens develops a writer's block which seems to have no solution. As such, Dickens must face his personal demons epitomized through his characters, especially in his imagined conversations with Ebenezer Scrooge. Now with a looming deadline, Dickens struggles for inspiration against his frustrations and his characters' opinions in a literary challenge creating a classic tale that would define the essential soul of modern Christmas.
IMDb   7 /10
Metacritic   60 %
TheMovieDb    6.8 /10
RottenTomatoes  79 %
FilmAffinity   5.9 /10
Release Date2017-11-21
Runtime1h 44min
GenreBiography, Comedy, Drama
Content RatingPG (PG)
AwardsAwards2 wins & 8 nominations
CompanyMazur / Kaplan Company, The Mob Film Company, Ingenious Media
CountryIreland, Canada
LanguageEnglish, Italian
Charles Dickensas Charles Dickens
Presenteras Presenter
Stage Manageras Stage Manager
Mrs. Fiskas Mrs. Fisk
Kate Dickensas Kate Dickens
John Forsteras John Forster…
Signor Mazzinias Signor Mazzini
Jasper Hughes Cotter
Jasper Hughes Cotter
Walter Dickensas Walter Dickens
James Heffernan
James Heffernan
Charley Dickensas Charley Dickens
Aleah Lennon
Aleah Lennon
Mamie Dickensas Mamie Dickens
Ella Mai Delaney
Ella Mai Delaney
Katey Dickensas Katey Dickens
Donna Marie Sludds
Donna Marie Sludds
Maidas Maid
Chapmanas Chapman
Thackerayas Thackeray
Pat Mooney
Pat Mooney
Garrick Club Waiteras Garrick Club Waiter
Anna Murphy
Anna Murphy
Taraas Tara…
Mr. John Dickensas Mr. John Dickens

The Man Who Invented Christmas (film)

The Man Who Invented Christmas is a 2017 Christmas biographical comedy drama film directed by Bharat Nalluri and written by Susan Coyne. Based on the 2008 book of the same name about Charles Dickens by Les Standiford, the joint Irish/Canadian production stars Dan Stevens, Christopher Plummer, and Jonathan Pryce, and follows Dickens (Stevens) as he conceives and writes his 1843 novella A Christmas Carol.

The film was produced by Parallel Film and Rhombus Media. It was released by Bleecker Street in the United States on 22 November 2017, and by Thunderbird Releasing in the United Kingdom on 1 December 2017. It received generally positive reviews from critics.


In 1843, four years after the success of Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) is suffering financial hardship from the failure of his last three books. Rejected by his publishers, he sets out to write a new book, and publish it himself, to restore his finances. Seeing inspiration around London, most notably a rich man's funeral that is largely unattended and a mean-spirited old man who gives him the catchphrase "Humbug" and inspiration of a new character, he begins writing A Christmas Carol, due in six weeks in order to be published by Christmas, despite his friends and publishers telling him that the book will also be a failure as Christmas (at the time) was considered irrelevant and few people celebrated it. As Charles develops the story, he interacts with the characters that manifest in front of him, most notably Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer). Dickens is helped by one of his servants, Tara (Anna Murphy), a literate Irish nursemaid to his children, whom he discusses story elements with.

While writing his book, Charles is greeted by the unannounced arrival of his eccentric father, John Dickens (Jonathan Pryce), whom Charles views as immature and fiscally irresponsible. When Charles shows Tara the next draft, she is distraught that Scrooge would not save Tiny Tim. Tara believes that people can change and suggests instead that Scrooge saves Tiny Tim. However, Charles is unable to believe that a man as cruel and cold as Scrooge could change. He rejects the notion but it continues to haunt him in the form of writer's block. Charles' relationship with his family and friends increasingly strains as he struggles with Scrooge's ending and his debts mount, until he sends both his parents and Tara out of the house in a fit of rage. The next morning, he regrets dismissing Tara, but is unable to find and rehire her. His wife, Catherine Dickens, tearfully confronts Charles over his recklessness and instability, and admits that she believes he puts his work before his own family.

It is revealed that much of Charles' animosity towards his father stems from his childhood trauma of laboring in a blacking factory after his family was taken to debtors' prison, all due to John Dickens' failure to pay his debts. Returning to the long-abandoned factory, Charles is forced to confront his own insecurities through Scrooge. Charles realizes that his story should be one of redemption and races home to finish his manuscript. As he is about to leave his home to submit it to his printer he finds that Tara has come to return a book that he'd lent her, and he apologizes for his angry outburst and invites her back to the household. His wife suggests that he do the same with his father, who is about to board a train to leave London. He does so and, after reconnecting with his family, submits the manuscript in time for publishing before Christmas.

The film ends with the Dickens family celebrating the holidays, while a title text explains the overnight success of A Christmas Carol and its lasting impact on the Christmas holiday.


  • Dan Stevens as Charles Dickens Ely Solan as young Charles Dickens
  • Ely Solan as young Charles Dickens
  • Christopher Plummer as Ebenezer Scrooge
  • Jonathan Pryce as John Dickens, Charles Dickens' father
  • Simon Callow as John Leech, an illustrator
  • Donald Sumpter as Haddock/Jacob Marley
  • Miriam Margolyes as Mrs Fisk
  • Morfydd Clark as Kate Dickens
  • Justin Edwards as John Forster/Ghost of Christmas Present
  • Miles Jupp as William Makepeace Thackeray
  • Ian McNeice as Edward Chapman
  • David McSavage as William Hall
  • Bill Paterson as Mr Grimsby
  • John Henshaw as Mr Fezziwig
  • Annette Badland as Mrs Fezziwig
  • Anna Murphy as Tara/Ghost of Christmas Past
  • Jasper Hughes-Cotter as Walter Dickens
  • Eddie Jackson as Scam Artist
  • Paul Kealyn as Warren's Foreman
  • Aleah Lennon as Mamie Dickens
  • Ger Ryan as Elizabeth Dickens
  • Valeria Bandino as Tart
  • Donna Marie Sludds as Maid


In addition to filming at Ardmore studios in Wicklow in Ireland, location filming was completed in and around Dublin (including Henrietta Street and North Great Georges Street) as well as in Wicklow; the latter was "transformed into 1840’s Victorian England" according to one source. Principal photography was completed on 21 January 2017.

Historical accuracy

Dickens is shown visiting Warren's Blacking Factory as an adult, but this building was demolished in the early 1830s.

In an interview, Stevens said of the film's historical accuracy: “Frankly, whether it’s historically accurate I’m not that concerned about. I was interested in that moment of the creative process, watching a great man struggle – to me, that's dramatically and comedically interesting. Certainly I was keen not to play Dickens as a bearded old sage”. He also expressed an interest in Miriam Margolyes' theory that Dickens was bipolar, saying: “There were moments when he was bleak and depressive. But I think there were moments when he was great fun to be around, very silly and playful.”

In a review, Time magazine mentioned that "some major plot points are the product of dramatic license" but concluded that the film "does provide viewers with a fairly accurate sense of how Dickens successfully changed the way Christmas is celebrated".

Release and reception

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The film was released in the United States in 500 theaters on 22 November 2017.

Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 79% based on 172 reviews, with an average rating of 6.40/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The Man Who Invented Christmas adds holiday magic to the writing of A Christmas Carol, putting a sweetly revisionist spin on the story behind a classic yuletide tale." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score 60 out of 100, based on reviews from 32 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".

Peter Debruge of Variety wrote: "In addition to being a rather fine addition to the Christmas-movie canon, the film marks a useful teaching tool — a better option for classroom screenings than any of the previous "Carol" adaptations, once students have finished reading the novella." The review by The Guardian was quite negative, including these comments by Peter Bradshaw, the publication's chief critic: "This entirely terrible film ... Not even a good cast can help a film as tin-eared as this".


It was nominated on 27 June 2018 at the 44th Saturn Awards for Best International Film.