Film Review: The Real Charlie Chaplin – 7/10

Life can be wonderful if you’re not afraid of it…’

Charlie Chaplin lived an utterly extraordinary life. Owing to the fact that he was also the most famous man on the planet for a time, and the enduring genius of his films, there is already plenty of stuff out there about Chaplin. His excellent autobiography is a great starting point. As is the You Must Remember This podcast which features a number of episodes dedicated to him. If that’s not enough, there is always Robert Downey Jr’s portrayal from the eponymous biopic Chaplin. The Real Charlie Chaplin doesn’t really present us with anything new, but it does wrap everything up nicely for those with an interest in Chaplin and his work…

Merging archive footage with vaguely sketched recreations, The Real Charlie Chaplin touches on all the usual footnotes one would expect. His childhood growing up in poverty. His subsequent rise to fame. His various affairs and scandals. His involvement with McCarthyism and communism. And finally his exile from America and slow decline. The Real Charlie Chaplin covers all of these events in a compelling and captivating way, but it never really attempts to provide us with the ‘real’ Chaplin so boldly promised by the title. Despite being undoubtedly entertaining, there is a nagging feeling that Chaplin remains as opaque and unknowable as ever by the end of the film. That being said, this is the best Chaplin documentary out there, and fans will find a lot here to enjoy.

The Real Charlie Chaplin only covers perhaps half of Chaplin’s astonishing life. While it provides a fascinating insight into how those close to him perceived him, it isn’t the definitive document that it proclaims to be. Solid but not spectacular.