There can’t be many people out there who weren’t read some classic Winnie the Pooh tale as a nipper. After all, going on an adventure with Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore and co are the literary equivalent of a nice warm duvet and a mug of hot chocolate – simple, relaxing and warming.
And yet how many people are aware that Winnie the Pooh was born out of the horrors of the First World War or that he brought abject misery to the little boy he was written for? Simon Curtis’s latest film ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’ shines a florescent light on this very subject.
Following the ‘war to end all wars’, writer and playwright AA Milne returned home from the front after the war, shell-shocked and unable to forget the horrors he has seen. Reeling and restless, he eventually moved his family – socialite wife Daphne and their young son Billy Moon (though christened Christopher Robin) – to the quiet solitude of Hartfield in East Sussex, surrounded by the breathtakingly beautiful Ashdown Forest.
In this buttoned up world of stiff upper lips and best foot forward, the idea of discussing emotion is never countenanced, and so Milne continues to grapple with his demons, unable to write, Daphne’s patience grows ever shorter away from the London hubbub, while their little boy is generally kept out of sight and out of mind in the care of his nanny. When Daphne’s fuse blows, and she heads to London issuing Milne with an ultimatum in the same week the nanny has to go away, Milne is left in the horrifying position of looking after his son. The two soon form a bond, however, and by inviting Billy’s cuddly toys to join them, the concept of Winnie the Pooh was born.
The charming books were snapped up in Depression-era Britain, along with the rest of the world, but this was no fairytale. Although the success delights Daphne, and Milne is swept along, poor little Billy Moon is pimped out for millions of interviews and appearances to adoring fans. That intimate moment with his father was no longer personal to them, and Billy Moon was forced to become the fictional Christopher Robin, and thereby forego his childhood. In some senses, he is an early example of a cautionary tale of a childhood star.
The subsequent emotional and in some instances literal abandonment of his parents, depression and bullying ultimately led Christopher Robin to refuse for many years any profit from Winnie the Pooh – a sad indictment of the pain that bear of very little brain ultimately brought him.
Domnhall Gleeson gives a sublimely restrained performances as the war ravaged AA Milne, while Margot Robbie impresses in the limited role of his detached wife Daphne. There are equally notable turns from Kelly Macdonald as the nanny, Billy’s only real rock, while Stephen Campbell-Moore gives a fine turn as the equally war-damaged illustrationist EH Shepard, but in truth, it is the youngsters Will Tilston and Alex Lawther who shine most brightly as the unfortunate and troubled Christopher Robin.
Beautifully shot with some truly wonderful performances, Goodbye Christopher Robin is a thorough examination of relationships and emotion – suppressed or otherwise – that ultimately reveals the darker side to the truly magical Winnie the Pooh.
Cast: Domnhall Gleeson, Margot Robbie, Alex Lawther, Kelly Macdonald, Stephen Campbell-Moore, Will Tilston Director: Simon Curtis Writer: Frank Cottrell Boyce, Simon Vaughan Released By: 20th Century Fox Certificate: PG Duration: 107 mins Release Date: 29th September 2017