The Personal History of David Copperfield (2019)


The Personal History of David Copperfield (2019)

A fresh and distinctive take on Charles Dickens' semi-autobiographical masterpiece, The Personal History of David Copperfield, set in the 1840s, chronicles the life of its iconic title character as he navigates a chaotic world to find his elusive place within it. From his unhappy childhood to the discovery of his gift as a storyteller and writer, David's journey is by turns hilarious and tragic, but always full of life, color and humanity.
IMDb   6.4 /10
Metacritic   77 %
TheMovieDb    6.6 /10
FilmAffinity   5.3 /10
Release Date2020-01-24
Runtime1h 59mins
GenreComedy, Drama
Content RatingPG (PG)
AwardsNominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 15 wins & 29 nominations.
CompanyFilm 4, FilmNation Entertainment, Searchlight Pictures
CountryUK, USA
LanguageEnglish, French
Mrs Steerforth
Albie Atkinson
Albie Atkinson
Mealy Potatoes
Tuwaine Barrett
Tuwaine Barrett
Referee Boy
Clara Copperfield / Dora Spenlow

The Personal History of David Copperfield

The Personal History of David Copperfield is a 2019 comedy-drama film written and directed by Armando Iannucci, based on the 1850 Victorian era novel David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. It stars Dev Patel as the title character, and Aneurin Barnard, Peter Capaldi, Morfydd Clark, Daisy May Cooper, Rosalind Eleazar, Hugh Laurie, Tilda Swinton, Ben Whishaw and Paul Whitehouse.

The world premiere was at the Toronto International Film Festival on 5 September 2019. It was theatrically released in the United Kingdom on 24 January 2020 by Lionsgate UK and in the United States on 28 August 2020 by Fox Searchlight Studios (through Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures).


The life of David Copperfield is chronicled from his birth to the present day. David has an idyllic life and is taken to visit the family of his nanny Peggoty (Daisy May Cooper) in their boat house in Yarmouth. When he returns, his young and widowed mother Clara (Morfydd Clark) has married the sinister and cruel Mr. Murdstone (Darren Boyd), who beats the boy. The abused David Copperfield (Dev Patel) is sent to work in Murdstone's factory where he lodges with Mr. Micawber (Peter Capaldi) and his family, who are pursued by their creditors. After being told of his mother's death and funeral, David escapes from his life of drudgery and finds his wealthy aunt Betsey Trotwood (Tilda Swinton) and her lodger, the eccentric Mr. Dick (Hugh Laurie). After troubling problems with Steerforth (Aneurin Barnard) and Uriah Heep (Ben Whishaw), Betsey Trotwood finances David's ambition to become a gentleman and author.


  • Dev Patel as David Copperfield
  • Jairaj Varsani as young David Copperfield
  • Aneurin Barnard as James Steerforth
  • Peter Capaldi as Mr. Micawber
  • Morfydd Clark as Dora Spenlow / Clara Copperfield
  • Daisy May Cooper as Peggotty
  • Rosalind Eleazar as Agnes Wickfield
  • Hugh Laurie as Mr. Dick
  • Tilda Swinton as Betsey Trotwood
  • Ben Whishaw as Uriah Heep
  • Paul Whitehouse as Mr. Peggotty
  • Benedict Wong as Mr. Wickfield
  • Nikki Amuka-Bird as Mrs. Steerforth
  • Darren Boyd as Edward Murdstone
  • Gwendoline Christie as Jane Murdstone
  • Matthew Cottle as Mr Spenlow
  • Bronagh Gallagher as Mrs Micawber
  • Anthony Welsh as Ham Peggotty
  • Aimee Kelly as Emily
  • Anna Maxwell Martin as Mrs. Strong
  • Victor McGuire as Creakle
  • Peter Singh as Tungay
  • Ruby Bentall as Janet
  • Divian Ladwa as Dr. Chillip
  • Rosaleen Linehan as Mrs. Gummidge
  • Sophie McShera as Mrs. Crupp


It was announced in February 2018 that Armando Iannucci would be writing, directing, and producing a new adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel. Iannucci wrote the screenplay with co-writer Simon Blackwell. Dev Patel was cast in the title role later that month. In April, the supporting cast was added, which included Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Aneurin Barnard, Ben Whishaw and Morfydd Clark. In May 2018, Peter Capaldi was cast to play Mr. Micawber and pre-production was underway.

Filming began in June 2018 in Norfolk and Suffolk, with Gwendoline Christie, Benedict Wong, Paul Whitehouse, and Daisy May Cooper joining the cast. Scenes were shot in Hull, Bury St Edmunds, Weybourne and King's Lynn in July. Aimee Kelly was added to the cast the same month. Principal photography on the film concluded in August 2018. In filming David Copperfield, it became the first theatrical film production of the novel in 50 years.


The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on 5 September 2019, followed by its European premiere on 2 October 2019, acting as the opening film of the 63rd BFI London Film Festival. It was the Surprise Film at the 39th Cambridge Film Festival. It was released in the United Kingdom by Lionsgate UK on 24 January 2020. Searchlight Pictures acquired distribution rights for the United States and scheduled the release on 8 May 2020. However, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cinema, it was theatrically released later on 28 August 2020.


Box office

The Personal History of David Copperfield has grossed $1.9 million in the United States and Canada, and $12.3 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $14.2 million, against a production budget of $15.6 million.

In the United States, the film debuted $520,000 from 1,360 theaters. Playing in 1,550 theaters the following weekend it fell 24% to $361,000.

Critical response

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 92% based on 242 reviews, with an average rating of 7.6/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "The Personal History of David Copperfield puts a fresh, funny, and utterly charming spin on Dickens' classic, proving some stories truly are timeless." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 77 out of 100, based on 39 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". PostTrak reported that 74% of audience members gave the film a positive score, with 50% saying they would recommend it.

Writing for The Observer, Mark Kermode awarded the film a full five stars and stated: "It really is a wonderfully entertaining film, managing to both respect and reinvent the novel from which it takes its lead."


AwardDate of ceremonyCategoryRecipient(s)ResultRef.
British Independent Film Awards1 December 2019Best British Independent FilmArmando Iannucci, Simon Blackwell & Kevin LoaderNominated
Best ActorDev PatelNominated
Best Supporting ActorHugh LaurieWon
Best Supporting ActressTilda SwintonNominated
Best ScreenplayArmando Iannucci and Simon BlackwellWon
Best CastingSarah CroweWon
Best CinematographyZac NicholsonNominated
Best Costume DesignSuzie Harman and Robert WorleyWon
Best EditingMick Audsley and Peter LambertNominated
Best Make Up & Hair DesignKaren Hartley-ThomasNominated
Best Production DesignCristina CasaliWon
London Film Week Awards1 December 2019Best FilmArmando IanucciNominated
Best ScreenplayArmando Ianucci and Simon BlackwellWon
British Academy Film Awards2 February 2020Best CastingSarah CroweNominated
Boulder International Film Festival Awards5 March 2020Best Feature FilmArmando IannucciWon
European Film Awards12 December 2020Best Production DesignerCristina CasaliWon
St. Louis Film Critics Association AwardsBest Production DesignCristina CasaliNominated
Satellite Awards15 February 2021Best Motion Picture – Comedy or MusicalNominated
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or MusicalDev PatelNominated
Best Costume DesignSuzie Harman and Robert WorleyWon
Best Art Direction and Production DesignCristina Casali and Charlotte DirickxNominated
Golden Globe Awards28 February 2021Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical ComedyDev PatelNominated
Hollywood Critics Association Awards5 March 2021Best Comedy/MusicalPending
Best Costume DesignSuzie Harman and Robert WorleyPending
Best Production DesignCristina CasaliPending
Critics’ Choice Movie AwardsMarch 7, 2021Best Costume DesignSuzie Harman and Robert WorleyNominated
Best Production DesignCristina Casali and Charlotte DirickxNominated
Casting Society of AmericaApril 15, 2021Feature Big Budget – ComedySarah CroweNominated