David Copperfield is very funny, breathlessly energetic and endlessly imaginative

Armando Iannucci’s exuberant adaptation of David Copperfield opens with our eponymous hero telling his life story to a rapt audience in Bury St Edmund’s Theatre Royal. What follows is a joyous romp around East Anglia, as Iannucci’s colour blind cast gallops through one of Dickens’s chunkiest novels, with wit and the lightest of touches.

Rather than attempt the impossible of cramming the novel’s labyrinthine plot into a meagre two hours, Iannucci has taken cheeky liberties and audacious shortcuts. In doing so, he presents the spirit rather than the letter of his source material, in a film that zips along. Dev Patel heads up a stellar roster of talent, with the unlikely double act of Hugh Laurie and Tilda Swinton foremost in stealing every scene they are in. Ben Whishaw’s Uriah Heep is curiously sympathetic, while Peter Capaldi plays Mr Micawber with an ambivalent edge. Time and again, the film manages to reinvent, yet be respectful of, Dickens and the novel.

This is an adaptation that is both intelligent and accessible, with much to delight both fans of Dickens and newcomers to his work. It is very funny, breathlessly energetic and endlessly imaginative, and as much about the process of storytelling as the story it tells.