Directors Peter Middleton and James Spinney take on the unenviable task of trying to dissect the life of a man who was once one of the most famous people on the planet. While Chaplin carved out his own style of filmmaking in what was then a brand new medium, his personal life soon became a regular feature in gossip columns around the globe.

Using a narrator can sometimes make or break a documentary, with Pearl Mackie’s narration unfortunately jarring slightly at the start as Spinney and Middleton find the film’s tone; there are hints of a primary school teacher in the way certain points are delivered. Thankfully, the film finds its feet and takes the approach of trying to draw the line between where ‘The Tramp’ ends and where the real Charlie begins. 

An enormous wealth of archive footage and audio is used throughout, both of Chaplin at work and at home, with carefully crafted reenactments dotted throughout. Audio from Chaplin’s Life magazine interview in the 60s is particularly interesting to hear, as well as the voices of some of his (many) children. A picture is quickly painted of a man who had true funny bones, but was ultimately a control freak, both professionally and personally. To the filmmakers’ credit, they thankfully do not gloss over Chaplin’s most abhorrent behaviour, as he worked his way through countless sexual relationships over the decades, often with teenage girls. Time is given to Chaplin’s second wife, Lita Grey, who clearly suffered terribly after years of being dragged through the mud by the press.

The Real Charlie Chaplin is a beautiful collage of old film footage, home videos, and audio interviews that, while only scratching the surface of certain parts of Chaplin’s life, builds a clear picture of a natural born comedian who ultimately caused his own inevitable downfall.



CAST: Charlie Chaplin, Pearl Mackie (narrator)

DIRECTORS: Peter Middleton, James Spinney

WRITERS: Oliver Kindeberg, Peter Middleton, James Spinney

SYNOPSIS: A look at the life and work of Charlie Chaplin in his own words featuring an in-depth interview he gave to Life magazine in 1966.