Australian Council on Children and the Media

The man who invented Christmas

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Not recommended under 10; parental guidance recommended 10 to 13 due to scary scenes, and lack of interest for younger viewers.

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for The man who invented Christmas
  • a review of The man who invented Christmas completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 5 December 2017.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 10 Not recommended due to scary scenes and lack of interest for younger viewers
Children aged 10 to 13 Parental guidance recommended due to scary scenes and lack of interest for younger viewers
Children aged 13 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: The man who invented Christmas
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes
Length 104 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Set in the 19th century, The Man Who Invented Christmas tells the story of how Charles Dickens created the famous and enduring story, A Christmas Carol. At the time, Charles (Dan Stevens) was in considerable debt after three previous flops, and was under great pressure to write a good story before Christmas. Charles had also just moved into a new, large house in London, with his wife Kate (Morfydd Clark), four children and another on the way.  Charles has difficulty sleeping and during the night remembers his own difficult childhood when his father, John Dickens (Jonathan Pryce) was dragged off to debtor’s prison with his mother and sisters. Charles was left alone and had to work in a boot-blacking factory. His childhood had a great effect upon him and he often recalls the horror of it.

While struggling to come up with ideas, Charles meets a grizzled old man attending a funeral at night. This gives him the basis for his main character Scrooge (Christopher Plummer). The characters in Charles’ head come into his room and appear as real people thus intermingling fantasy and reality. Charles also gets great inspiration from a young maid, Tara (Anna Murphy) who tells Irish folk tales about spirits to the children. It’s a frantic rush for Charles to finish the manuscript, have the illustrations done and the book printed to his liking but with help from his friend and self-appointed manager, John Forster (Justin Edwards) he makes it just in time.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Christmas; poverty and charity; Victorian England; fantasy; ghost stories

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • An explosion on the stage throws Charles to the floor.
  • A bad tempered man throws a cat off a chair.
  • Under pressure, Charles yells at everyone, throws things and sends people away.
  • In the boot-blacking factory, Charles (as a young boy) hits out at a boy who is taunting him and they get into a fight.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Scrooge is a threatening, mean old man.
  • There are many scary images – ghostly, dark, windy scenes and characters.
  •  Charles walks through a graveyard at night – this is quite scary looking.
  • A ghost (who looks a lot like Charles’s lawyer) Jacob Marley, bursts into his bedroom. He is grey and covered in chains and dragging his safe behind him. He says that he’s wearing the chains he forged in life and screams.
  • Scrooge appears in Charles’s bedroom during the night while he’s sleeping. Charles goes into his study where a light is flashing and the ghost of Christmas past appears.
  • On a windy dark night, lights start flashing again and the ghost of Christmas present appears sitting on a tree. A statue (the ghost of Christmas yet to come) moves and points its hand in a direction Charles has to follow.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Remembering back to his childhood Charles has many bad memories including:

  • Being frightened by a picture of a ghost with a dark face.
  • Street urchins and beggars covered in mud.
  • Charles watching his father being dragged away in a prison van with his mother and sisters. Charles is crying and trying to hang on to him. He’s left alone, cold and hungry.
  • Being sent to work in the boot-blacking factory – it is very dirty and frightening. All of the children are dirty and sad. They mock Charles when he says his father is a gentleman. The owner of the factory pushes and shoves Charles along the way. Rats are running everywhere and one of the boys picks up a large dead rat and places it in front of Charles. Charles has to work 12 hours a day.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Charles enters Bob Cratchett’s home where his sick, crippled child, Tiny Tim has just died.
  • When Charles tells Tara that Tiny Tim has died in the story, she gets very upset and says he musn’t die.
  • Scrooge says that men who like Christmas should ‘boil themselves in their Christmas pudding and die with a stake in the heart’.
  • Scrooge is in a pit that starts to close in on him. He says he doesn’t want to die unloved and forgotten.

 

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film.

Product placement

Nothing of concern

Sexual references

Nothing of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

Nothing of concern

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Drinking at clubs, parties and at home at Christmas.
  • John Dickens smokes cigars and appears drunk.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • “bloody”; “God’s teeth
  • name calling such as “idiot” and “imbecile”

In a nutshell

The man who invented Christmas is a fantasy drama about the writing of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, which gives an insight into the man himself, and his own unfortunate upbringing. It also explains why Charles Dickens was so passionate about the injustice of the stratified Victorian society and the poverty that he wrote about in many of his books. Although the film features a ghost story, it is told in quite a light-hearted manner, which makes it less scary than it might be. However, due to the subject matter, it is not recommended for children under 10 and is more suited to older children and adults.

The main messages from this movie are that ‘no-one is useless if he lightens the burden of another’ and that Christmas is a time to think of those less fortunate and to share with them when possible.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children the importance of helping those less fortunate. It also gives the opportunity to discuss what it was like for children in Victorian society who had to work under terrible conditions, despite various acts that were passed to improve them. It wasn’t until the 20th Century that it became illegal to employ children in industrial work.

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