While he has a film nominated for the Academy Award this year, with documentary I Am Not Your Negro, Raoul Peck has been celebrated for showing innovation and ingenuity, and yet the talented filmmaker returns with a dramatic offering The Young Karl Marx, which falters in the aforementioned area, ticking all the boxes of the period piece biopic, abiding frustratingly by formula. Naturally tedium kicks in, but at least the director can be commended for taking this complex series of events and making them easily digestible, and accessible to a broad audience.

Set in 1844, we’re introduced to Marx (August Diehl) at the age of 26, living in exile with his wife Jenny (Vicky Krieps); a man who wants to change the world but is lacking the platform to do so – until he meets Friedrich Engels (Stefan Konarske), the son of a factory owner, dismayed by the treatment of the staff, emblematic of a society where the impoverished workers are without rights, and in many cases, their dignity. Apprehensive at first, the pair strike up a close affinity with one another, assisted by the latter’s wife Mary Burns (Hannah Steele), hellbent on making a difference, moving between Paris, London and Brussels, collaborating, campaigning and convincing their most hardened doubters. Their aim to give a voice to the disenfranchised, to support the oppressed and change the world – and that’s all before they’ve even turned 30.

The Young Karl MarxAugust Diehl excels in the eponymous lead role, as he so often does, complete with an endearing glint in his eyes, as somebody you feel gets a real kick of out a debate, as if waiting, fervently, for somebody to have the courage to disagree with him, simply so he can complete one of his intellectual smack-downs. You believe in his version of Marx; educated, impassioned, and somebody you hang on every single word of. Peck can be a accused somewhat of heroising his subject, which is somewhat understandable as he fights tirelessly for the working class – but he does remain vitally flawed, a human creation and not merely a sycophantic image of the man, avoiding caricature in the process.

Noticeable for its pertinence, there can be parallels drawn between this narrative and the ongoing political climate, which creates a foreboding sense of futility, injected into this otherwise inspiring production, as it feels as though the bourgeois have perpetually exploited the proletariat, which hardly feels like a notion consigned to history. Peck signals his intentions to extenuate this sentiment too, with a closing credits sequence featuring Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone, played over a series of clips dating up to (almost) the present day; it’s just a shame it takes such a long time for the director’s paramount vision to get across. Too little, too late springs to mind.