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The Personal History of David Copperfield | 2019 | PG | – 1.4.2

content-ratingsWhy is “The Personal History of David Copperfield” rated PG? The MPAA rating has been assigned for “thematic material and brief violence.” The evaluation includes a couple of kissing scenes and a few cleavage revealing dresses, a few drownings and references to other drownings, a child being beaten by a man and threatened by others, scenes of people suffering and living on streets, scenes of child labor, a fistfight and several arguments with one leading to a scuffle, and some mild language and name-calling. Read our parents’ guide below for details on sexual content, violence & strong language.

A modern interpretation of the Charles Dickens classic, it follows the life of David Copperfield (Jairaj Varsaniborn as a boy and Dev Patel as a young man), as he struggles through the ups and downs of poverty, trying to make his way in the challenging social order of Victorian England. Also with Hugh Laurie, Tilda Swinton, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Aneurin Barnard, Darren Boyd, Peter Capaldi, Gwendoline Christie, Morfydd Clark, Daisy May Cooper, Matthew Cottle, Faisal Dacosta, Rosalind Eleazar, Anthony Welsh, Paul Whitehouse, Ben Whishaw and Benedict Wong. Directed by Armando Iannucci. [Running Time: 1:59]

The Personal History of David Copperfield SEX/NUDITY 1

 – A young woman kisses a man after accepting his marriage proposal. A young man stares at a young woman at a party, approaches her and they flirt awkwardly. A young man and a young woman (they are adopted siblings) become engaged. A young man imagines a young woman’s face and name everywhere he looks. A young woman kisses a young man on the cheek.
 A young man tells a young woman, “I’m in love,” and it is implied that she thought he meant with her until he talks about another young woman. A young man says that he loved a woman “to distraction.” A man refers to a piece of meat as a good “piece of rump” and apologizes to a woman in the room. A young man throws a bouquet of flowers at a young woman (as if he were in a theater at a performance).
 Women wear low-cut and off-the-shoulder dresses that reveal cleavage and bare shoulders in several scenes throughout the movie.

The Personal History of David Copperfield VIOLENCE/GORE 4

 – A man yells at two women and a boy during a lesson: the man takes a cane and grabs the boy by the arm to take him to a room where the man continues to yell at him, the boy bites the man’s hand, pulls away from him, hides under the bed and the man spills a chamber pot (we see liquid slosh out of it) before snatching the boy and beating him off-screen, as his mother pleads with the man outside the door. A woman chases a boy through a factory, her skirt becomes caught on a hook, the boy pulls a lever and crushes the woman’s’ hand in a corking mechanism and she screams (we do not see any gore); a man chases the boy and the boy punches him in the face and runs away. Two young men argue in a market and agree to fight: one is punched in the face a couple of times and we see him with bloody abrasions on his face lying on the ground among blood and tissue from a meat butchery and we later see another man using a piece of raw meat to treat his wounds. A man and woman yell at each other and slap each other in the face a few times before a young man punches the man and knocks him to the floor. A storm rages at sea and we see two men dead on the shore and one man remains on a ship that is being thrashed by rough water; a man swims to the ship to help the remaining man out and the other man is washed overboard and shown dead on the beach later.
 A woman becomes upset when donkeys walk through her meadow in several scenes; we see her pushing people off their donkeys and yelling at them and she is shown pounding a person’s head against a sign posted in the yard. A family (a man, a woman and several children) is shown being taken away by officials and we see them locked in a cell in a debtor’s prison. Several men pound on a door and a man hides from them; he tells a boy to distract them and he gets inside safely, pulling the boy in through a window; the men return and take a clock out of the house through a window in an effort to collect on a debt. Men outside a house pull a rug from outside and drag it pulling a toddler in a crib toward them. Several people search for a young woman and find her in a rundown building where other people are shown sleeping in the hallways. A woman searches through a house and seems displeased.
 A man and woman tell a young man that his mother died and that the funeral has already taken place; he becomes furious and walks through a bottle factory breaking many bottles as he yells at them. A boy in a factory breaks a bottle and is dragged to a man’s office where he is told the rules of the factory; the boy exits the office wearing a sign that reads, “He Bites.” A boy is shown in a bottle factory where there are many children working; he is told that a foreman will “Hang your guts out for bunting” if he doesn’t work hard enough.
 A man yells and runs on a beach as a ship sails away with the young woman he intended to marry; another young man has taken her away. A man yells that he has had it and calls for his razor, threatening to use to kill himself (he does not). A woman yells at a young woman and the young woman says that she was abandoned by the woman’s son. A woman yells at a young man and threatens him with a garden fork. Several young men mock a man in a few scenes. A man and woman joke about keeping a young man “as a pet.” A man makes remarks to a young man seeming to be aware of where he came from and his past. A man accuses a young man of being “fond of violence.” A woman dismissively questions a young man about who his “people” are, and when she is not satisfied with his answers, walks away. A man and a woman tell a young boy that he is to be sent away, and he describes it as being “Banished to London.” A boy is sent away from his home when his mother marries a man, to live with a family in an upturned boat on a beach. A woman accuses a young man of overreacting. A young man tells a man and a woman, “You’ve always been death.” A man says that he is working on improved housing for the working poor. A woman dismisses a man after hiring him to be a teacher, when she finds out that he spent time in prison. A woman accuses a young woman of bringing a veil of shame on her family. A man tells a boy that two other children are adopted and that their fathers drowned; also that an elderly woman’s husband drowned. An elderly woman says, “Let me die.” A young man says that the scar on his mother’s face was caused by him throwing a hammer at her. A woman tells a young man, “I’m ruined, I’ve lost everything.” A woman is described as being “all edge.” A woman says that another woman is made of wax and a boy says, “Or Dutch cheese.” A woman says that an elderly woman, “Brings up more than she eats.” An elderly woman calls out, “I’m going to be sick in a substantial way,” (we do not see anything).
 A woman in labor yells and cries until the child is born (off-screen). A woman is disappointed and storms off grabbing her umbrella in a threatening manner when she is told a newborn is a boy. A woman presses her nose against a windowpane and enters a house where she sits waiting for a child to be born and she stuffs cotton in her ears to block screaming during labor. A woman holds a piece of broken wall under her arm and a piece of ceiling falls in a room where several young men are gathered for lessons (no one is harmed); water is shown leaking from upstairs and it is collected in several buckets. A young woman stands in a ship’s mast and climbs down a ladder safely. A boy plays with a wooden sword, hacking at large shrubs. Four drunken young men go to a theater performance and stumble around the box seats causing a disruption. A young man bumps his head on rafters in a house several times.
 A man steals a small musical instrument from a store and runs away chased by the proprietor. A young man walks many miles from a city and he encounters another man on a road that steals his coat; the first man is shown walking barefoot. A young man sleeps on a factory floor. Several scenes show people sleeping on streets. A man wakes up on the street with a start and yells.
 A boy and later a young man try to read words on a page and the words become jumbled. A man seems to be obsessed with the death of King Charles I and he insists that the thoughts of the king transferred to him at the time of his death; a reference is made to the king’s head being cut off.
 Women are shown gutting fish at a harbor and we see their hands covered with blood and muck. A man is shown gutting fish on a harbor and he flashes the knife in his hand as he says, “I could be a murderer.” A family is shown with plates of a lettuce leaf, while a boy has a plate filled with meat, potatoes and vegetables (the boy shares his food and ends up with only a leaf of lettuce himself).

The Personal History of David Copperfield LANGUAGE 2

 – Name-calling (gullible manor, ludicrous, human mangold, stupid, jackals, wickedness, corker, ghosts, peculiar, mad, scum, snobbery, rake thin, melancholy mad elephants, tiresome, you fellow, little turnip, thieves, idiotic, prize poodles, cold, metallic, melancholy, inappropriate, dismal, maniac, mouse hole), exclamations (nonsense, get gutting, I beg your pardon, oi, bless me), 4 religious exclamations (e.g. Dear Lord, Lord, By God, I Wish To God). | profanity glossary |

The Personal History of David Copperfield SUBSTANCE USE

 – A man asks for a sherry and it is implied that he has a drinking problem, two young men drink wine, people drink wine at a celebration and one man stumbles after drinking too much, people drink wine with a meal, several people drink sherry while having a picnic in a field, people carry glasses of wine into a theater, people drink in a pub scene, and four young men and a young woman drink many bottles of wine in an evening and appear inebriated. A man smokes a cigar at an outdoor party, and several young men smoke cigars in an apartment.

The Personal History of David Copperfield DISCUSSION TOPICS

 – Victorian England, social mobility, parenting, child labor, creditors, vengeance, debtor’s prison, forgery, embezzlement.

The Personal History of David Copperfield MESSAGE

 – Finding one’s way can be difficult but things can be easier if you have a distraction.


Be aware that while we do our best to avoid spoilers it is impossible to disguise all details and some may reveal crucial plot elements.

We've gone through several editorial changes since we started covering films in 1992 and older reviews are not as complete & accurate as recent ones; we plan to revisit and correct older reviews as resources and time permits.

Our ratings and reviews are based on the theatrically-released versions of films; on video there are often Unrated, Special, Director's Cut or Extended versions, (usually accurately labelled but sometimes mislabeled) released that contain additional content, which we did not review.

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