Charles Dickens's England (U)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner22/07/2009

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 118 mins

There's a certain curiosity value here for fans of Dickens's work, but the documentary is so badly written and so ineptly directed that it's often difficult to sit through without giggling.

What's it all about?
Directed by Julian Richards, Charles Dickens's England follows actor Derek Jacobi (who both narrates and presents) as he takes the audience on a guided tour of what remains of Charles Dickens's England. Aside from an innumerable number of Charles Dickens Lived Here blue plaques, we also visit Miss Havisham's house in Rochester, the almost forgotten London Roman baths used by David Copperfield, Bowes Academy (the model for Dotheboys Hall) and several other locations that were either personally important to Dickens himself or featured prominently in his novels.

The Good
To be fair, if you're at all interested in Dickens and his work, there is a certain amount of curiosity value to be gleaned from the various locations visited and you may even find yourself making a mental note to visit some of them yourself.

The Bad
The problem is that the direction is so unbelievably awful that it occasionally feels like a mockumentary. For example, Jacobi frequently ends a scene by making some inane comment and then pulling a face – the worst example of this is when he's in Gerrard St (now Chinatown) and he says “I wonder what Dickens would have made of Gerrard St today?”

Other howlers include: a ridiculous shot of Jacobi plunging up and down on the prow of a boat in the Thames; someone's head popping into shot from behind a door just as one of Jacobi's experts reaches the climax of a moving story; a dreadful mock-up of Magwitch running about a graveyard; and several excruciating, poorly staged “Oh, can we come in and look around?” moments (including people being made to say they can feel Dickens in their house). And as if all that wasn't bad enough, the film also leaves out the less palatable details of Dickens's life, such as his treatment of the women in his life.

Worth seeing?
Charles Dickens’s England scrapes an extra star for effort and the sheer number of locations visited (over 100), but it's also way too long, badly written and quite possibly the worst directed film you'll see all year.

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Content updated: 15/12/2017 16:07

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