I thoroughly enjoyed Winnie-the-Pooh as a child, and the movie behind the creation of the characters is equally satisfying. Goodbye Christopher Robin provides a rare glimpse into the relationship between beloved children’s author Alan Alexander Milne (played here by Domhnall Gleeson) and his son Christopher Robin (Will Tilston).
After returning from the First World War, Milne was left shell shocked. He abandoned London for life in the English countryside. With him were his wife Daphne (Margot Robbie), their son and his nanny Olive (Kelly Macdonald). In the woodlands of East Sussex, he began his unexpected transformation from essayist and playwright into the role for which he would be best remembered forever.
There Milne began to spin fanciful tales for Christopher Robin. The stories starred the little boy and his growing collection of stuffed animals, most notably his teddy bear, known as Winnie-the-Pooh. Collected into two volumes, Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner, the stories were instant successes when published in 1926 and 1928 and have remained a staple of childhoods around the world for nearly a century.
The story is a beauty – gripping and intoxicating. It showcases flawed characters and the consequences of fame and fortune. I found the focus on post-traumatic stress disorder fascinating. Plaudits to the writers, Frank Cottrell Boyce (The Railway Man) and Simon Vaughan (TV movie A Bear Named Winnie). Simon Curtis’s (My Week with Marilyn) direction is assured.
The acting is top shelf. Each of the key characters has their time to shine and they most certainly do in a showcase of what is great about the art form. Newcomer Will Tilston is adorable as Milne’s imaginative eight-year-old son. Domhnall Gleeson nails the torn figure of the writer and father; while Margot Robbie’s impressive range of credits continues to grow with another layered performance. Kelly Macdonald exudes empathy and care as the nanny.
The settings, cinematography (Ben Smithard – My Week with Marilyn – is director of photography) and period detail are divine. Production design by David Roger is exemplary.
Overall, a lot of threads come together to create a far more complex tapestry than one could have imagined. What we see with crystal clarity is that notoriety comes at a very high price indeed. Goodbye Christopher Robin has a great deal to commend it.
Director: Simon Curtis
Cast: Margot Robbie, Kelly Macdonald, Domhnall Gleeson
Release Date: 23 November 2017
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David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television