By Luke Hinton
Any adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol needs to do something very different to get noticed.
Aside from the original 1843 novel, countless retellings of the classic story have found incredible success, with The Muppet Christmas Carol and Robert Zemeckis’ 2009 animation springing to mind, making it almost impossible to find a niche in telling a story that’s been done so many times, and so well. Yet co-directors Jacqui and David Morris’ interpretation is visually enthralling, entertaining and, most of all, unique.
The first thing that makes A Christmas Carol (this film, not the book) special is the format within which the Morris siblings tell the story – opting for interpretive dance over Dickens’ dialogue and description. It’s a very bold way of retelling the story, that works fantastically, with poetic choreography and stunning set design that gives the plot an artful slant wherein the dance peels back further the emotional layers behind characters and events. It peers behind the dialogue to add another dimension to the narrative, but it doesn’t just feel like a stage play filmed for the big screen: the cinematography is elegant; the camera gliding around the sets as the dancers, choreographed by Russell Maliphant, emote beautifully.
And yet equally impressive is the array of vocal talent that complements the visual storytelling. In a cast peppered with A-list stars, the most frequent voice is that of Martin Freeman (The Hobbit), here playing Scrooge’s clerk, Bob Cratchit. It’s an understated performance – he isn’t in it much, as anyone who’s familiar with the story knows – but he brings an engaging likability to a character that arguably forms the moral crux of the story: if not for Scrooge’s sympathy for Cratchit’s family, the whole narrative would fall apart. Yet the best vocal performance is easily Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), who takes on the voice of the reimagined Ghost of Christmas Present, now cast as a black man (a stunning, elegant Mikey Boateng), in a spin that updates the story by adding new contexts to the class division that forms the novel’s thematic pivot. Kaluuya perfectly complements Boateng’s dancing, with a vivacity and undeniable swagger that proves really gripping.
A Christmas Carol (again, this film) feels so necessary. No adaptation of such a fabled novel will survive unless it has a unique spin – we’ve had more than enough drab interpretations over time – but the Morris siblings really inject new life into the story, with a fantastic cast and an innovative creative slant that preserve the wonder of Dickens’ original.
It’s a much-welcomed breath of fresh air into the classic Christmas tale, and a must-watch for this year’s festive season.
A Christmas Carol will be available to watch in cinemas and theatres on 4th December. You can buy tickets here: https://www.achristmascarol2020.film/
This review was originally published here on That Film Blog UK, but has been kindly allowed for republishing on our section.